Go-ahead for Ravenhill upgrade
Plans for a major redevelopment of Ravenhill rugby stadium have been given the green light, Assembly ministers have confirmed.
Environment Minister Alex Attwood said he has backed planning permission for improvements at the south Belfast ground, including three new stands.
Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin said the announcement was central to plans to redevelop stadia linked to rugby, Gaelic games and football.
The Executive has earmarked up to £14.7 million of Government funding for the schemes, with £110 million available for the work on all three stadia.
The new Ravenhill stands will complement the existing stand, opened in October 2009, and will raise the stadium's capacity to 18,000. The news is a further boost for Ravenhill, the home of Ulster Rugby, days after the team qualified for its second successive Heineken European Cup quarter-final.
Mr Attwood said: "This is a tremendous boost for rugby and for sport here. Planning approval will now lead to the creation of a stadium that is fit for the 21st century.
"In arriving at my decision, I have given careful consideration to the need for a new stadium and views of the local community amongst others. I am satisfied that the new Ravenhill can be achieved without causing undue harm to the surrounding area or its citizens.
"Ulster Rugby will have a major role in this regard. The role of planning is to create a better place, to live, work and invest in Northern Ireland, and this ambitious, exciting project will create employment opportunities for local people, particularly during the construction process.
"It is a further example of how sport in NI, which is very much on the up, can further develop."