Belfast Telegraph

Casement Park project facing more delays due to Stormont absence

An artist’s impression of how Casement Park will look
An artist’s impression of how Casement Park will look

Construction of the new Casement Park Stadium in west Belfast could be facing further delays due to the lack of an Executive at Stormont.

The project has been beset with problems since its was first granted planning permission in 2013 - which was later quashed - including spiralling costs.

Initially, the 34,500 capacity stadium was set to cost an estimated £77m - comprised of £15m from the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) and £62m from the Stormont Executive.

That has now increased to £110m and the Department for Communities (DfC) said it cannot give the project the green light due to the extra funding needing approval, reports the BBC.

DfC's Permanent Secretary, Tracy Meharg, said it was not her place to make decisions that should be in the hands of a Stormont minister.

"At the moment, what we have is a commitment from the executive to fund £62m for Casement Park. In the time that has passed since then, clearly the costs have risen," she said.

"We will be assessing the business plan in the context of the new costs and we will be determining whether indeed we can make a recommendation that it represents value for money.

"But of course, given the fact that this is a [departmental] cross-cutting issue, given the fact that it was a commitment from the executive, this department alone will not be able to make that decision. That would be a matter for a minister."

Planning permission for the project was granted in December 2013 but quashed a year later by the High Court in Belfast following a judicial review taken against the Planning Service.

Revised plans were lodged in February 2017 following an unprecedented 32-week public consultation process, with 95% of respondents in favour of the project, however the plans have not yet been approved.

Last week, Ulster GAA said it received correspondence from the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) stating that, despite there being no ministers at Stormont, the Department may make the final decision on the planning application.

They expressed frustrations, however, at the time it took to conclude the assessment process, adding that DfI has acknowledged the delay and has confirmed that responses will be issued as soon as possible.

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