Safety concerns expressed over Casement Park plans

Safety officer warns of Hillsborough situation at planned Belfast stadium

General view of Casement Park in Belfast. Approval for a new GAA facility – a proposed venue for Ireland’s 2023 rugby World Cup bid – at the site was overturned in the High Court.  Photograph: Andrew Paton/Inpho

General view of Casement Park in Belfast. Approval for a new GAA facility – a proposed venue for Ireland’s 2023 rugby World Cup bid – at the site was overturned in the High Court. Photograph: Andrew Paton/Inpho

 

An expert has expressed concern about safety at the planned new Casement Park stadium in West Belfast.

Paul Scott from the Safety Technical Group said there were only two small exits and warned if an emergency happened, people could be crushed.

Approval for a new GAA facility – a proposed venue for Ireland’s 2023 rugby World Cup bid – at the site was overturned in the High Court last December after residents won a legal challenge to block the plans.

Mr Scott said he was put under “undue pressure” by government officials to approve plans for the new ground.

He said: “There are a heck of a lot of people potentially trying to get out of a relatively small place.”

He said the proposed 38,000-capacity stadium could not be emptied safely in an emergency and warned of a similar situation to the Hillsborough tragedy.

Mr Scott alleged he had been left stressed and suffering from sleepless nights following bullying by Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) officials.

“If we did have an incident and there was panic and if people tried to exit... crushing, that may be more a problem than fire.

“The people who suffer then are particularly the elderly, children, ladies.

“These GAA matches are very much family affairs.”

He told Stormont’s Culture, Arts and Leisure Committee people had to be able to get out in eight minutes at the most because of fire risk.

More than £67 million of public money has been set aside for the Casement Park expansion as part of a Government commitment to upgrade outdated facilities for Northern Ireland’s three main sports – rugby, football and Gaelic.

The GAA want to build a 38,000-capacity all-seated stadium including conference, bar/restaurant and community facilities plus car parking on the site at Andersonstown Road, which had been suggested as a potential venues for the tournament.

Residents from about 60 nearby homes objected to the size of the planned development and launched a legal challenge to halt construction.

PA