Belfast Telegraph

Friday 11 July 2014

Residents to fight Ravenhill expansion

Plans to develop Ravenhill Rugby grounds have met stiff opposition from some residents, concerned about a 600 capacity bar being considered for the grounds.

Some residents are afraid their leafy suburb will be disrupted at night by more rugby fans leaving the grounds or by new lighting for the pitch.

Kelly Hughes, of the Ulster Rugby Residents Association said: “We have had enough as it is, with the rubbish in the streets, noise level, and getting into and out of your house has got slightly easier in the last weeks.

“But that's only since we put up some opposition to their plans.

“We are 100% sure that they will have to make this pay for itself. As soon as it's brought in there will be more non-rugby functions. It will be harder for us to get in and out again.

“It's not a massive venue as it is and they need more ground capacity to perform in competitions and that will be detrimental to the residents.”

South Belfast MLA Alex Maskey said he had attended a number of meetings with residents groups and representatives from the area with Sinn Fein colleagues.

“We also attended Ulster Rugby’s recent consultation meeting for residents on the proposed development of the stadium at Ravenhill.

“At this meeting we took the opportunity to listen carefully to the proposals for development but also, to highlight concerns raised with us over a long-standing period. “We have also raised issues of concern around traffic and parking with the PSNI and Roads Service”.

Philip Robinson, UUP Pottinger area councillor said: “From speaking to residents, many of which are supporters of Ulster rugby, they have concerns about aspects of the planning project.

“The areas of concern are that there are plans for increased capacity in the grounds, extra lighting and its impact on residents, and the plan to have extra bars and increases in the capacity of bars and licensing issues.”

A spokesperson of Ulster Rugby said: “There are plans to increase the capacity of the ground to 18,000, but we certainly wouldn’t envisage that many in Ravenhill every Friday night.

“Like residents we would like to see Mount Merrion and Onslow Parade closed on match days except for residents.”

She said the floodlights were not being upgraded and that the ground already hosted large events in marquees.

“We are aware of residents issues but feel we have an obligation and ambition to grow and ensure financial viability for the club, that will also help the local economy.

“We do have to be mindful of concerns, yet we do already have planning permission for two of the three stands,” she added.

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