Northern Ireland news

Construction of Casement Park has divided opinion since first planning application lodged

Casement Park in west Belfast. Picture by Picture Mal McCann

THE construction of Casement Park stadium has divided opinion since the first planning application was lodged.

The original budget was £77.5 million, with Stormont pledging £62.5m towards the project and the GAA providing the rest.

But years of problems and setbacks, the costs spiralled with Ulster GAA confirming in 2019 that it had risen to around £110m.

There has also been opposition from local residents, who previously argued that the stadium was too large to be built in a heavily-populated area with traffic chaos and the venue blocking sunlight to their homes among the concerns.

In December 2014, residents won a High Court legal challenge, quashing planning approval for initial proposals for a 38,000-capacity stadium.

They also opposed the GAA's revised plans in 2017 and called for a smaller capacity ground of around 20,000.

Redevelopment of the west Belfast venue has been in the pipeline for more than a decade, but planning issues led to the time-scale slipping significantly.

Plans were unveiled to build a 42,500 seater stadium for soccer, rugby, and Gaelic games at the site of the former Maze Prison in 2006, with the provisional backing of the GAA.

But DUP Sports minister Gregory Campbell scrapped the Maze plan in favour of the three sports' ruling authorities developing their own stadium solutions.

That let to Ulster GAA proposing Casement Park be upgraded to become the north's premier GAA facility, accommodating 40,000 fans.

SDLP environment minister Mark H Durkan granted official planning permission in 2013, but a High Court judge later quashed it.

The GAA submitted fresh plans for a downsized 34,500 seater stadium with infrastructure minister Nichola Mallon last year recommending planning approval ahead of the confirmation yesterday.

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