Belfast Telegraph

GAA Casement Park stadium row residents win first step of legal battle

By Alan Erwin

A residents' group has cleared the first hurdle in its High Court bid to overturn the decision to approve a new 38,000-seat GAA stadium at Casement Park in west Belfast.

Mooreland and Owenvarragh Residents Association (MORA) was granted permission to seek a judicial review of planning permission being given for redevelopment of the grounds.

The residents claim the stadium will be too big for the west Belfast neighbourhood.

In court yesterday, lawyers for the Department of the Environment did not oppose the legal action, which will now go to a full hearing in September.

No injunction has been imposed to halt work on the £76 million project in the meantime.

The new stadium, to be built on the existing Casement site, is to include modern facilities and corporate resources.

Most of the funding is coming from the Stormont Executive through the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure.

But according to MORA, a 38,000-seat ground cannot be justified.

The residents claim that a stadium on that scale will block out light in surrounding homes, reduce the quality of life for those living close by and compound traffic problems in the area.

They argued that planning chiefs should have assessed it as a mixed-use facility also capable of holding concerts and other public events.

Further issues dealing with Japanese knotweed and asbestos have also been raised.

Outside court, Tony Dignan, a member of the residents' group committee, insisted they were not completely opposed to redeveloping Casement Park.

"We are just against the scale of this; it's too big," he said.

"We don't think there's any need for a 38,000 seater stadium where it will only meet that capacity one day a year – the Ulster Championship final."

Ryan Feeney of Ulster GAA stressed that in granting leave the court has not decided on the merits of the residents' case.

He also welcomed the move to fast-track the case to a full hearing in September, with no injunction on work in the meantime.

Mr Feeney added: "The GAA has engaged in a comprehensive two-and-a-half year engagement process with the local residents and the community and we will continue to do so."

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