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Designs for Belfast's £77m Casement stadium presented to residents

By Sophie Inge

New designs for a controversial £77m stadium at Casement Park were unveiled yesterday - almost two years after the original plans were rejected.

The plans were presented by Ulster GAA at Conway Mill as part of the second phase of a community consultation for the west Belfast stadium.

Tom Daly, chairman of the Casement Park Project Board, said the plans demonstrated Ulster GAA's "willingness to engage, listen and evolve our plan for a new Casement Park stadium".

"In the new scheme, we have reduced the scale, mass, size and capacity of the stadium whilst at the same time creating a first-class atmosphere for GAA supporters through the bowl design and up-close spectator experience," he said.

The unveiling comes almost two years after the original design was thrown out by the High Court following objections from local residents.

The Mooreland and Owenvarragh Residents Association (MORA) had complained about the size of the stadium, saying it would block out light in their homes and increase congestion on nearby roads. Then, last year, safety expert Paul Scott claimed that he was 'bullied' when he raised concerns that the 38,000-capacity arena could not be safely evacuated in emergencies.

Under the new plans, capacity will be reduced from 38,000 to 34,500 and the highest point of the stadium will be 12m lower than the original building.

In addition, the back of the seating bowl on the south stand is 11m further away from the boundary than it was in the previous scheme. On the north stand, the seating is 9m away from the boundary.

The new proposal also sets out plans for new traffic and travel schemes - including off-site park-and-ride transportation.

And there will be various improvements in safety features, such as the creation of a 9,000 square-metre perimeter pedestrian zone.

Speaking at the event, Stephen McGeehan, the Casement Park project sponsor for Ulster GAA, said the community was at the heart of the project. He said: "We want there to be something in Casement Park for all of the local people of west Belfast - not just footballers, hurlers and Camogie players, but also people who can use the cafe, who come and socialise in the social club and attend conferences, banquets and events.

"We want something the community will be inherently proud of, and we believe the emerging design for Casement Park will enable that to happen."

Asked about the chances of the 2023 Rugby World Cup being hosted at Casement, he said: "If developed within the timescales that we are currently working to, the stadium will be available in the season of 2020. So if Casement is operational and successful, we would hope that it would be included as a potential venue in 2023."

Ulster GAA president Michael Hasson said: "We want to create a positive sporting legacy and iconic stadium that will be a beacon to inspire young GAA players throughout west Belfast, Antrim and across Ulster."

There will be a chance to see the plans at the Lagan Valley Island Centre today, the Glenn Community Complex on Wednesday, and Andersonstown Leisure Centre on Thursday.

Belfast Telegraph

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