A legal challenge against a decision to grant planning approval for the redevelopment of the GAA’s Casement Park in Belfast has been dismissed.
The Mooreland and Owenvarragh Residents Association (Mora) had challenged the decision by former Infrastructure minister Nichola Mallon to grant approval for the 34,000-plus capacity stadium in the west of the city.
Mora had argued that the decision was unlawful on both planning grounds and on constitutional grounds, in the latter instance arguing that Ms Mallon should have sought the approval of other executive ministers under the terms of Stormont’s ministerial code.
Delivering judgment in the judicial review case on Tuesday, Mr Justice Humphreys said all arguments advanced by Mora on planning grounds were “without merit”.
He said Ms Mallon’s failure to secure wider Executive approval represented a “technical breach” of legislation, but he used the court’s discretion to uphold her decision regardless, noting that no executive ministers were opposed to the redevelopment of the stadium.
Ulster GAA has welcomed the ruling as “clear, unambigious and emphatic”.
“We can now, finally, plan for the delivery of our provincial stadium and the last remaining project within the NI Executive’s Regional Sports Stadia Programme.”
“We recognise the outstanding work of the Casement Park Project Team, their expertise, professionalism, and dedication throughout this long journey. They have worked tirelessly to ensure that the transformational sporting, cultural and economic benefits of this iconic stadium can finally be realised.
“We thank Gaels and the community of West Belfast for their overwhelming support and strength of voice throughout this process. To those that are opposed to the project I would like to assure them that we will be good neighbours, working closely with everyone throughout construction and when operational to bring positive benefits to the whole community.”
Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill has said the building of Casement Park has “taken a great step forward”. “Transforming Casement into a world-class stadium for Ulster Gaels is a priority for Sinn Féin. This development will create jobs, attract investment and grow our economy. It is now time to get workers on site,” she said.
In early 2012, redevelopment work was first announced with a view to moving the Ulster final from St Tiernach’s Park in Clones to the redeveloped Casement Park.
Local residents of West Belfast has objected to the proposal, describing the new stadium plans “a monstrosity” and too expansive.