New GAA stadium given go-ahead
Plans for a new 38,000-seater GAA stadium in Belfast were given the go-ahead today.
Almost 1,000 residents living near Casement Park, Andersonstown, objected, but Northern Ireland Environment Minister Mark H Durkan has granted planning permission.
The Stormont executive has already pledged £110 million funding for the redevelopment of three sports stadiums in the city - Ravenhill rugby ground which is due to finish next year, Casement, and Windsor Park where Linfield Football Club and Northern Ireland international soccer teams play their home matches.
Mr Durkan said: "This is a tremendous boost for gaelic games and for sport here. Planning approval will now lead to the creation of a modern sports stadium with improved facilities and increased spectator comfort.
"The new stadium is a high quality design which will be a recognised landmark building which will assist with the ongoing regeneration of the Andersonstown Road and boost the city of Belfast.
"This stadium will have the potential to host cross-provincial matches usually played at Croke Park or Clones. This will boost sports tourism and the economy in the North. Jobs during the construction phase and additional jobs for the daily management are to be welcomed."
The decision, he said, had not been an easy one. The Department received approximately 984 objections and a petition of objection with 431 signatures. There were also 254 letters of support and a petition of support with 1,001 signatures.
Mr Durkan added: "Having met with local residents, I understand their concerns about the impact of the proposal. As Environment Minister for the whole of the North, my decision cannot ignore the regional benefits that will result from the development of this stadium and how it fits with the Executive's programme for government.
"The future management of events is key to the success of the stadium and I expect the GAA to honour their commitment to help ensure that a vibrant stadium can exist within and for the benefit of the local community and indeed all of Northern Ireland. I believe this proposal can build a better environment and a stronger economy."
Northern Ireland Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin welcomed the decision. She said: "Having planning approval granted for Casement Park is the final part of the jigsaw in the regional sports stadium programme.
"Not only is this a tremendous boost for the GAA in Ulster, the re-development of Casement will bring many benefits to the community in West Belfast through construction jobs and a catalyst for regeneration in the area around the stadium."