Graveyard proposal for Dundrod circuit 'could spark race day chaos'
Rider says you wouldn’t build cemetery at Windsor Park, so why at Ulster Grand Prix?
Plans for a new cemetery on the site of the Ulster Grand Prix have been blasted by the motorcycle race organisers.
An application has been lodged for a 96-acre graveyard near Dundrod village on the Quarterland road, close to the route of the race, which attracts thousands of tourists each year.
Top superbike rider Glenn Irwin has slammed the proposal, saying: "You wouldn't build a cemetery in Windsor Park, so why build it on the Ulster Grand Prix track?"
The private applicant has not been named, but a planning firm representing them says the new site is vital to meet a growing shortage of burial spaces in Lisburn, Belfast and south Antrim.
Robert Graham, chair of the Dundrod District Motorcycle Club said: "This proposal is fundamentally incompatible with the long established Ulster Grand Prix circuit."
He insisted that local residents and members of the Ulster Grand Prix Supporters Club (UGPSC) would resist any attempt to further the planning application submitted to Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council.
While the applicant has suggested closing the cemetery on racing days, Mr Graham says it would cause chaos.
"What would we then do if we changed racing from a Thursday to a Friday only to discover that numerous burials had been planned for that day? It would create utter chaos and an impossible situation," he said.
Des Stewart, chairman of the UGPSC said: "The ambience of a cemetery of this magnitude is irreconcilable with the nature of a high adrenaline sport such as motorcycle road racing, during which the public access roads to the cemetery would be closed, and I just do not see how the two can co-exist in harmony."
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Irwin commented: "If there's a cemetery there and someone passes away and needs to be buried on the Saturday, they'll be buried on Saturday. There just couldn't be racing that day.
"If you don't have the cemetery in the first place you'll never fall into that question.
"Another way to look at it is that the event brings so much into the local economy, it's not just for petrolheads.
"I think putting something like that in could disrupt it."
Racing legend Phillip McCallen said he was in two minds over the controversy, and could see both sides of the argument.
"As an Ulster Grand Prix lover you would hate for any cemetery to interfere with the race," he said.
"But looking on the other side, many people who love motorcycle racing might actually like to be buried close to the Ulster Grand Prix - it could be a famous resting spot.
"Maybe it could be a complete success."
Richard Bowman of planning consultancy Strategic Planning is representing the applicant for the cemetery. He said the proposal would be a £35 million investment creating 345 construction jobs.
And he added that the local community had been fully consulted throughout the application.
"This is a unique opportunity to supply much needed, high quality cemetery provision to serve the needs of people in the Lisburn City, Belfast and South Antrim areas," he added.