Northern Ireland

Integrating new Casement stadium in west Belfast 'impossible'

Casement Park Image copyright other
Image caption A new stadium is expected to be completed by September 2015

Building a new 38,000-seater GAA stadium that visually integrates within its west Belfast neighbourhood is impossible, a court has been told.

Lawyers for a residents group opposing the Casement Park redevelopment said landscape architects backed concerns about homes being plunged into shadow.

A judge was also told the planning process for the £76m project was "rushed through".

The new stadium is to be built on the existing site.

Funded by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, it is to include fully modern facilities and corporate resources.

However, the Mooreland and Owenvarragh Residents Association (MORA) claim the proposed ground is simply too big for the area.

They argue that a stadium of that magnitude will block out light, reduce the quality of life for those living close by and compound traffic congestion.

It is further alleged that planning chiefs failed to properly assess the new Casement Park as a mixed-use facility also capable of holding concerts and other public events.

Further issues dealing with Japanese knotweed and asbestos have also been raised.

'Dominant and overbearing'

On a second day of the legal challenge to Environment Minister Mark H Durkan's decision last December to approve rebuilding the stadium, counsel for MORA told the High Court landscape architects had been critical of the "dominant and overbearing" scale of the scheme.

Referring to their conclusions David Scoffield QC said: "It's impossible to put a modern stadium such as the GAA want onto this site which visually integrates with the existing environment. It cannot be done."

Mr Justice Horner heard claims that the proposed new ground would impact on residents' privacy and restrict light. Some nearby dwellers would have their gardens partially in shadow by mid-afternoon, the court heard.

Although the residents group are seeking to halt the 38,000-seater project, they are not opposed to rebuilding on a smaller scale.

But Mr Scoffield claimed Roads Service staff were being urged to sign off the plans before his clients had a chance to assess and submit objections.

Contending there was a six-month deadline for completion of the planning application, he said: "Everyone is saying let's grant permission, we will have a further assessment down the line and see what happens as we go."

The barrister also said it was irrelevant if some of his clients' homes had been built after Casement Park was first constructed.

"It's not a case of 'we were here first so we can do what we want'," he added.

The hearing resumes on Monday when Department of the Environment lawyers are expected to outline their case.

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