3,500 object to plan for cemetery on Ulster Grand Prix circuit
Supporters' club 'overwhelmed' by backing for its campaign to block graveyard
Almost 3,500 people have objected to a proposed cemetery at the site of the Ulster Grand Prix just weeks after the planning application was submitted.
The Ulster Grand Prix Supporters Club (UGPSC) brought more than 3,000 letters of opposition to Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council to be added to the objections which have already been made.
The UGPSC has received more objection letters since then, accoding to chairman Des Stewart.
Some are even from people outside Northern Ireland who attend the road races at the circuit.
Mr Stewart told the Belfast Telegraph the club was overwhelmed by the backing opposing the graveyard proposal.
"I think everybody is in a state of shock over this," he said. "We were blown away with the magnitude."
The UGPSC and the Dundrod & District Motorcycle Club have been working together on the campaign. The Ulster Grand Prix has been held at Dundrod since 1953.
As planners consider the merits of the cemetery application, they will have to take all public complaints into consideration.
Councillor James Tinsley said the cemetery will have to be justified before it can be approved.
"The race is one issue, but location and need for the cemetery is another," he said. "There's no real proven need for it."
The application for the 96-acre graveyard in Dundrod was submitted by a private company, citing a need for burial spaces in Lisburn, Belfast and South Antrim.
Mr Stewart argued there were alternative burial places, and the potential for new ones at different sites, in the area. The project at Dundrod will have to be approved by the Lisburn and Castleragh City Council after planners have finished their consultations.
Mr Tinsley said this could take months.
"It is very difficult to see how this plan is viable from an infrastructure perspective," he said. "The country roads around Dundrod would not easily cope with the much higher volume of traffic a cemetery of this size would bring." But the biggest concern is the impact it would have on the annual event.
"This is the fastest road race in the world. The cemetery really could jeopardise the race," he added.
Although those behind the plan have signalled a degree of flexibility to try and accommodate racing, Mr Stewart said there would still have to be changes made to the course.
"A change in road infrastructure could be detrimental to the fastest road race," he said. "It's just not something that we could see would be even compatible." He added closing any cemetery on race days was impractical and unsustainable.
"We just do not see how we could run this event in harmony with the daily business of a cemetery of this size and scale," he argued.
For now, he said, the club will continue to ferry letters to the council.
"We wish to continue the race. We haven't put this letter out to annoy anyone, just to protect something which could affect this historical event on the Dundrod circuit. We feel the council has an obligation to try to protect us," he said. "We have to await the outcome now."