Northern Ireland

Casement Park: Residents group wants stadium capacity halved

Casement Park Image copyright other
Image caption The residents group has lowered the capacity figure it had previously said it would accept

A west Belfast residents group has called for the capacity of the new Casement Park stadium to be halved in light of concerns over its safety.

The GAA wants to build a 38,000-capacity ground on the current site.

But a crowd safety expert told a Stormont committee that only 14,000 to 18,000 people could be safely evacuated from the existing design.

Now a residents group based in the shadow of the stadium has lowered the capacity figure it would agree to.

The Mooreland and Owenvarragh Residents Association had previously said it would accept a capacity of 20,000 to 25,000.

Blockage

Ann-Marie Hughes from the group: "18,000 to 20,000 - that would be the sort of number I would think [would be acceptable] for safety reasons, and also to fit with houses around the area.

"The GAA need to look at it, they need to assess it, I think they should bring down the capacity."

In April, the BBC reported that design plans had not been approved by key safety advisers.

One of the major concerns the advisers had was that any blockage on the Andersonstown Road where the stadium is based could push the amount of time it could take to exit the ground to well over the recommended eight minutes.

Although there has been speculation that the GAA would consider a reduction, the figure mentioned was around 34,000, well above the number recommended by residents.

Plagued

At the end of last year, planning permission for the new stadium was overturned after a judicial review.

The GAA is working on a modified planning proposal that they hope to submit for approval in the near future.

However, there is nothing to indicate that they would consider a capacity below 32,500, which is the benchmark figure for high-profile GAA fixtures like provincial finals.

The £70m Casement Park project has been plagued by problems.

The latest controversy came on Thursday when crowd safety expert Paul Scott, from Sport NI, told a Stormont committee that the existing design for the stadium was flawed.

He claimed his concerns had been ignored and attempts had been made to sideline and "gag" him.

A review of the project was later announced by the sports minister Carál Ní Chuilín.

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