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Casement Park: Residents group loses legal battle to prevent new 34,000 seat GAA stadium being built in west Belfast

A residents group has lost its legal battle to stop a new 34,000 seat GAA stadium being built in west Belfast.

A High Court judge dismissed the challenge mounted to former Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon’s decision to grant planning permission for the redevelopment of Casement Park - despite identifying a technical breach of a legal requirement to table the issue for Executive Committee consideration.

Mr Justice Humphreys held that other Stormont ministers were fully briefed, and that she retained legal authority to take the decision.

“This was not a ‘solo run’ by the Minister in that she kept her Executive colleagues informed as to her intentions, which received widespread support, and expressly alluded to regionally significant planning applications such as Casement Park,” he said.

“There is no evidence that any Minister disagreed with the decision to grant planning permission for Casement Park.”

A series of alleged flaws in the planning process for the new stadium project were also rejected.

Judicial review proceedings were issued by the Mooreland and Owenvarragh Residents Association (MORA) after Mrs Mallon announced her approval in July last year for a new £110m arena at the venue in Andersonstown.

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Some of those living in the surrounding area object to the proposals due to concerns about the proposed height of the rebuilt Casement Park, traffic, parking and potential disturbance from concert events.

Part of the challenge centred on constitutional issues, with claims Mrs Mallon was legally required to obtained consent from the wider Stormont Executive because the issue is cross-cutting, significant and controversial.

Lawyers for MORA argued that she acted in breach of the Ministerial Code, depriving them of the protection of having the plans subject to further scrutiny.

But the court was also told how redevelopment of Casement Park was uniquely identified in the New Deal New Approach agreement which led to the restoration of Northern Ireland’s power-sharing administration in 2020.

Based on that document Mrs Mallon was said to have acted lawfully in how she dealt with the planning application and informed her Stormont colleagues.

Similar arguments featured last year in a separate failed challenge by Safe Electricity Armagh and Tyrone (SEAT) to her approving the North South Interconnector electricity line.

Echoing that judgment, Mr Justice Humphreys said she should have brought the Casement Park issue to the Executive Committee.

But he held: “The failure to do so did not represent a contravention of the Ministerial Code and therefore the Minister was not deprived of authority.”

Lawyers for MORA repeatedly stressed the group’s opposition is only to the scale of the new stadium planned for Casement Park.

They claimed planning procedures were “usurped” by an agreement negotiated with Ulster GAA for the redevelopment described as a “hulking mass” which would overshadow homes in the area.

It was also contended that the level of uncertainty around dealing with future events should render the contract void.

Issues were raised about a clause relating to the appointment of a stadium manager, travel plan coordinator, event safety manager, event management group and traffic management contractors.

However, Mr Justice Humphreys described all grounds of challenge relating to the planning process and compliance with environmental impact assessments as having no merit.

Despite the technical breach of the Ministerial Code, he upheld the decision to grant planning permission.

“There has already been significant delay and there is considerable public interest in this project,” the judge said.

“As a result, I propose to follow the approach in Safe Electricity and decline to grant any relief in all the circumstances prevailing in this case.”


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