Belfast Telegraph

Casement residents still facing court bill despite appeal victory

By Alan Erwin

A residents' group is facing a legal bill despite winning its High Court challenge to the approval of a new 38,000-seat GAA stadium in the heart of west Belfast.

Earlier this week a judge ruled Environment Minister Mark H Durkan acted unlawfully in granting planning permission for the £77m Casement Park redevelopment.

Mr Justice Horner held that the process was "irretrievably flawed", with failures in the environmental impact assessment and the effect of bigger crowds on the surrounding roads network not properly examined.

Lawyers are to return to court today to make further submissions on whether the decision to give the green light to the expansion scheme should now be quashed.

But one issue that has already been determined is how legal fees for one of the longest judicial review cases in recent years are to be met.

A protective costs order agreed at an early stage in proceedings ensured Mooreland and Owenvarragh Residents' Association (MORA) would not be left with crippling costs had it ultimately lost the challenge.

Without the financial safeguard it could not have mounted the court action.

However, the terms also mean the Department of the Environment only has to pay £35,000 of the group's fees.

With the case having run for 13 days, sources confirmed the bill for MORA's lawyers exceeds that figure. By how much remains unclear.

Meanwhile, the issue of potential remedies remains to be decided.

The long-running judicial review focuses on plans by the GAA to turn Casement Park into a 38,000-seater venue.

The residents objected to its size, believing their homes would be dwarfed by the new construction.

During the case MORA's lawyers described the scheme as an injustice, which would be unacceptable anywhere else in Northern Ireland.

It would be impossible to construct a stadium on that scale which will visually integrate with the existing neighbourhood, it was claimed. Central to MORA's case was the contention that the environmental assessment was defective because it relied on Casement Park's existing 32,600 capacity as a baseline for examining the environmental impact of an increase of just over 5,000 seats.

Mr Justice Horner was told the new stadium would be replacing a ground that hadn't come close to selling out a lower capacity in decades.

Police claims that emergency evacuation of a full house could take up to 47 minutes were also explored.

In his verdict on Monday the judge identified failures in assessing the impact of increased facilities.

Story so far

The long-running judicial review focuses on plans by the GAA to turn its Casement Park ground in west Belfast into a world-class stadium.

The association wants it to be a 38,000-seat venue - but residents living in streets around the park objected to its size. They took the issue to court believing their homes would be dwarfed by the new construction.

Belfast Telegraph


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