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£77m Casement project could be finished by 2019 despite setbacks, claims chairman


Casement Park GAA stadium in west Belfast, which is to be completely rebuilt

Casement Park GAA stadium in west Belfast, which is to be completely rebuilt

Project chairman: Tom Daly

Project chairman: Tom Daly

Casement Park

Casement Park

Casement Park GAA stadium in west Belfast, which is to be completely rebuilt

The major redevelopment of the Provincial Stadium at Casement Park could be completed by 2019 despite the catalogue of problems that has stalled the project.

The chairman of the £77m Casement Park Project Board said he hopes to submit the new planning application by autumn this year following a lengthy two-phase consultation process.

Tom Daly said the new fit-for-purpose stadium could be up and running in the next three years.

He made the comments as the Ulster GAA launched the 20-week consultation process, which includes a series of events across west Belfast.

"There are so many inter-related parts of this process that can eat up time, but with things moving well for us we believe we have a prospect of completing it some time in 2019," he said.

"The critical thing for us is that we need, as urgently as we can get it, a fit-for-purpose modern stadium for our own GAA games.

"There is always a big focus on a small number of high-attendance games, but for the rest of the year the stadium will have the function for the GAA and community projects in the city, county and province."

A number of issues has hampered the proposed redevelopment after a safety expert raised concerns about the emergency exits.

The GAA's efforts to develop the old stadium site have been mired in controversy, with initial planning approval for a 38,000-capacity venue quashed by the High Court in 2014 following a challenge by nearby residents. Mr Daly refused to say what the capacity will be in the new planning application, adding that they were letting that "issue rest".

He continued: "The capacity issue will arise much later in the process.

"The first thing we have to do is to ensure that our design team take on board everything that comes out of the consultation process. That will touch on all of the stakeholders, including local residents, the wider community, school community and Gaelic games community. I have no doubt there will be very diverse views and challenging and interesting suggestions as to what can take place in the new facilities."

He also refused the idea of seeking an alternative location, saying that Casement Park will be the home of Ulster Gaelic games.

He added that the GAA sticks by its position that it "aimed for and achieved" the highest provision of safety in the stadium.

"We will want a design that places the highest possible premium on safety, we won't build it if we don't have that. Last year we put 1.6 million people through our turnstiles attending Gaelic games," he said.

The overall cost of the project will be around £77m, with £60m to come from government funding while the rest will come from the GAA.

A series of events will be held at Conway Mill, Andersonstown Leisure Centre and Glen Community Complex to hear the views of interested parties, on May 24, 25 and 26.

Belfast Telegraph