Casement Park plan now 'backed by 91%'
But councillor claims developer's community survey failed to address safety concerns
There is overwhelming backing for the redevelopment of Casement Park in west Belfast, those behind the multi-million project have claimed.
The plan to revamp the site of the famous GAA ground on the Andersonstown Road has been mired in controversy, with number people living nearby concerned about their homes being eclipsed by a massive new stand.
The project was at the centre of a Stormont row after a safety expert raised concerns about the emergency exits.
Now, the Casement Park Project Board claims the proposed redevelopment has received a "surge in support" after the first stage of a consultation.
Chairman Tom Daly said: "There have been excellent ideas and proposals emanating from the local community of how to make Casement Park a community asset, which the design team are now reviewing.
"These ideas will help ensure Casement Park will be a facility everyone in west Belfast, Co Antrim, Ulster and throughout Ireland will be immensely proud of and a stadium that the next generation of young people can aspire to play in."
The GAA's efforts to develop the old stadium site have been plagued by problems, with initial planning approval for a 38,000-capacity venue quashed by the High Court in 2014 following a challenge by nearby residents.
The consultation to allay fears is extending into a second stage beyond the 12-week process required. Of the 1,989 responses collected so far, 162 (8%) were opposed to the project with 1% not commenting. But 1,810 (91%) support the redevelopment.
Of those, 67 people (4%) clarified that their support was subject to an appropriate design and capacity.
Similarly, of the 8% who oppose the redevelopment, 5% clarified that they don't disagree with the redevelopment in principle but would oppose an inappropriate design, the project board said.
Commenting on the findings, project director Rory Miskelly said: "The feedback also highlighted areas of legitimate concern that we will look to clarify during the consultation's second stage; whether concerns about capacity, transportation or the scale and design of the new stadium, we have tasked our highly experienced team to address these matters in the emerging design."
But People Before Profit Alliance councillor Matt Collins suggested that the questions being asked were flawed. He said: "I'm not surprised by the feedback - everybody and their dog knows that the community in west Belfast wants a stadium. That was never in any doubt, despite the mud flung at residents.
"The problem is, if you held a consultation in west Belfast on whether people wanted a stadium design that could potentially cause another Hillsborough, I'm sure that the figures would be completely reversed.
"This has never been about whether a stadium would be built, but whether the stadium that is built will be safe and suitable for the area in which it is erected."