Council to face legal action from Portadown GAA club over playing field
A Co Armagh based council is facing legal action over claims it failed to properly consult a GAA club over a playing field strategy.
Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon (ABC) Borough Council's Playing Pitch Strategy has been shrouded in controversy since details were published in May last year.
The council commissioned the strategy, which was adopted last June, for the old Craigavon council area.
The document is a guide for future provision and management of sports pitches across the area, which includes the major towns of Portadown and Lurgan.
The legal challenge has been launched by a member of Tir na nÓg GAC in Portadown and papers were lodged with the High Court in Belfast earlier this month.
According to the report there are currently more than 160 GAA teams across the Craigavon council legacy area involving hundreds of people at all age levels.
It also identifies a need for access to additional grass pitch provision in the town but says this could be provided through an Armagh county board development near the town or via future works at a local soccer club.
Located close to the Garvaghy Road, Tir na nÓg serves the entire Portadown area but only has one playing surface.
The club member behind the legal action now wants the original report quashed and new consultation carried out.
It also wants the court to rule that the existing report is unlawful and is seeking costs.
It is also alleged that a section 75 equality screening exercise was not carried out correctly.
Tir na nÓg chairman Dessie Henderson said the club backs the court action.
“From a GAA perspective there is a lack of playing pitch provision by the old Craigavon council and now the ABC council,” he said.
Mr Henderson said his club has 16 teams that cater for all ages including 250 children.
He said that at times the club members are forced to travel to a sports arena near Cookstown in Co Tyrone for training.
“We were quiet concerned the council went ahead with this,” he said.
Sinn Féin councillor Catherine Nelson also welcomed the court action.
“The strategy identifies a need but fails to provide for it,” she said.
“That is not acceptable. In addition the level of consultation we expected of officers did not materialise despite the use of and payment to consultants.
"The strategy is based on a whim and a prayer and could be used to refuse future council funding to the GAA.
"I welcome this legal challenge.”
Solicitor Gavin Booth, of Phoenix Law, said: “We believe there is a number if flaws in the consultation strategy including their failure to consult with Tir na nÓg.
“The initial consultation paper by the council clearly stated there would be consultation but instead the council has provided a paper without having taken the views of this club.”
ABC council declined to comment.