Northern Ireland

Casement Park: Construction delays costing £60,000 a week, court told

Aerial view of Casement Park GAA stadium
Image caption The GAA wants to build a new 38,000-seat stadium on the existing Casement Park site but residents living nearby are challenging the plan in the High Court

The delay in starting full construction on the new Casement Park GAA stadium is costing £60,000 a week, the High Court has been told.

Counsel for the sporting organisation also said the overall bill for the redevelopment in west Belfast had risen by £2.7m.

Residents living near the stadium are taking legal action to try to block the planned £77m redevelopment.

It was approved by Environment Minster Mark H Durkan last December.

He gave the go-ahead for the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) to build a new 38,000-seater stadium on the existing site.

In new figures disclosed at the legal challenge to the project, a judge was told on Thursday that almost £5m of preliminary work would be lost if the scheme was halted.

The residents group argue it would be too big for the area, dwarf surrounding homes, block out light and compound traffic congestion.

The proposed new stadium was expected to cost £77m, with the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure providing £62m in funding and the GAA the rest.

The judge has been told pre-construction work carried out by the contractor was already well under way by the time Mooreland and Owenvarragh Residents Association launched legal action.

It was previously claimed that the bill for that phase amounted to £2.3m.

Counsel for the GAA said the up-to-date total was now in excess of £4.8m.

It includes:

  • £2.6m spent on design costs.
  • £1.4m on work undertaken so far by the contractor.
  • £800,000 of direct GAA costs for project management, legal fees and other miscellaneous bills.

According to the GAA's counsel, none of that money would be recoverable if the decision to grant planning permission was quashed.

Delays in starting construction work, which was supposed to get under way in April, have also had a financial impact, the court heard.

Based on inflation, the GAA's counsel said the sporting body had been advised the hold-up had led to the overall cost of the project increasing by approximately £2.7m to date.

He added that every week building work was pushed back resulted in a further £60,000 increase.

The new Casement Park scheme forms part of a wider project involving development at Windsor Park football stadium and the reconstructed Ravenhill rugby ground.

Original plans to build a showpiece arena capable of hosting all three sports at the former Maze prison site were scrapped in 2009.

Residents opposed to the scale of the Casement Park project claim it would be replacing a ground that opened in 1953 and that had not come close to selling out a lower capacity in decades.

Their lawyers also argued that the scale of the development was not warranted by attendance records.

Central to the case is an allegation that the environmental assessment was defective because it relied on an existing 32,600 capacity as a baseline for examining the impact of an increase of just over 5,000 seats.

The hearing continues on Friday.

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