Belfast Telegraph

GAA fans will lose out if Casement Park objections upheld, court told

By Alan Erwin

GAA fans will be stuck with a crumbling and decaying stadium if the decision to approve a new 38,000-seater arena in west Belfast is quashed, the High Court has heard.

A judge was told more than £60m of public money allocated to the Casement Park redevelopment would then be returned to the Stormont Executive for spending elsewhere.

Counsel for the Planning Service also claimed 60 years of sporting and cultural heritage at the home of Gaelic games in Ulster could end up being lost if a residents' group wins its legal battle to halt the project.

The new stadium, funded in chief by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure and to be built on the existing site, is to include fully modern facilities and corporate resources.

The Mooreland and Owenvarragh Residents Association (MORA) claim the proposals are simply too big for the area.

They argue that a ground of that magnitude will block out light, dwarf surrounding homes, and reduce the quality of life for those living close by.

It is further alleged that planning chiefs failed to properly assess the new Casement Park as a mixed-use facility also capable of holding concerts and other public events. Despite their objections to the proposals, Environment Minister Mark H Durkan gave the green light for rebuilding the stadium last December.

According to the residents' legal team, the planning application and permission was rushed through within a six-month timeframe.

They stressed in court that many members of MORA are actual grassroots GAA supporters who would have no problem with a more modest 20,000-25,000 seater stadium.

However, Tony McGleenan QC, for Planning Service, insisted there would be no such alternative options should their challenge succeed. The case continues.

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