Northern Ireland

Casement Park: Judge quashes GAA stadium approval decision

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Media captionCasement Park redevelopment project will continue vows GAA

A High Court judge has quashed a ministerial decision to grant planning approval for the redevelopment of Casement Park stadium in west Belfast.

The Gaelic Athletic Association applied to build a new 38,000-seat stadium on the site and the plan was approved by Environment Minister Mark H Durkan.

Local residents objected and went to court, asking for a judicial review.

The judge, who has already ruled Mr Durkan acted unlawfully in approving the plan, has now quashed the decision.

'Errors'

A GAA spokesman said the organisation was disappointed with the ruling but added that it will submit a new planning application next year.

Mr Durkan said: "The judge found that in reaching my decision on this planning application there were errors in how aspects were processed thus rendering the decision unlawful.

"This is disappointing. I will now carefully consider the full judgement and the outcome of today's decision."

Northern Ireland Sports Minister Carál Nί Chuilίn said she was also disappointed with the ruling but remained "fully committed to ensuring that this project becomes a reality".

'Too big'

The legal challenge was brought by the Mooreland and Owenvarragh Residents Association (MORA).

They had objected to the size of the redevelopment.

They claimed the proposed stadium would be too big for the area, blocking out light in their homes and gardens, and compounding traffic congestion in west Belfast.

Image caption The GAA applied to build a new 38,000-seat stadium on its existing Casement Park ground, but local residents objected to the size of the redevelopment

After the judge quashed planning approval on Thursday, the GAA released a statement through Tom Daly, chairman of the Casement Park Project Board.

"Whilst we are disappointed with today's judgment we are fully committed to transforming Casement Park and building a provincial stadium for Ulster which will provide a longstanding legacy for Gaelic Games as well as significant social and economic benefits.

"We welcome that the judgment found the siting, size and scale of the Casement Park development were not contrary to planning policy."

'No accommodation'

Mr Daly said there was a "strong resolve within the GAA to submit a new planning application in 2015, which will again follow the due process and scrutiny of the Department of the Environment".

The sports minister said: "I am aware that the GAA offered a number of solutions which sought to address the issues raised in the judgment and I am disappointed that no accommodation was reached.

Ms Nί Chuilίn added: "The GAA have indicated that they will lodge a fresh planning application which will take account of the points raised in the judgment and I and my department will fully support them during the new planning process."

At a hearing on Monday, the judge ruled the environment minister had acted unlawfully in approving the plan and gave both parties more time to come up with new submissions.

Mr Justice Horner found the decision-making process had been fundamentally flawed.

'Police concerns'

He identified failures in the environmental impact assessment of the plan and also found that the effect of bigger crowds on the surrounding roads network had not been properly examined.

The judge also pointed to the minister never being told of police concerns about safety issues around having 38,000 people attending an event.

The proposed GAA sports facility was to be built with the help of £61.4m of public funding, provided by the Northern Ireland Executive.

To date, £5m of public money has already been spent on the Casement Park redevelopment.

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