Final approval granted for new 35,000 capacity Casement Park

A new stadium is set to be built on the Andersontown Road site in west Belfast

The green light has been given for a new 35,000 capacity Casement Park stadium in Belfast. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

The green light has been given for a new 35,000 capacity Casement Park stadium in Belfast. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

The GAA is to have a new state of the art home in Ulster as plans for a redeveloped 35,000 seater stadium at Casement Park in west Belfast have been given final approval.

Stormont infrastructure minister Nichola Mallon, who said last October that she would recommend for the project to receive the go-ahead, confirmed on Wednesday that “final planning approval” has been granted.

“This is an historic day for the GAA in Ulster and for Gaels across our island,” she added.

“Last October I announced my intention to grant planning approval and I am delighted that all the statutory processes have now been completed to make that decision official and allow the Ulster Council of the GAA to proceed with their development plans.”

The redevelopment of the Andersonstown Road stadium - which has lain derelict and overgrown for seven years - has been mired in controversy through planning and legal disputes.

Original proposals in the mid-2000s to build a £300 million stadium on the old Maze Prison site near Lisburn for GAA, rugby and soccer were thwarted by political fall out.

It was then decided to redevelop Casement as well as Belfast’s existing rugby stadium Ravenhill and the soccer ground Windsor Park.

While the rugby and soccer projects went ahead, objections to what was originally supposed to be a 40,000 capacity stadium at Casement stymied progress in its overhaul.

More than 1,300 letters of objection and three petitions of objection, along with 1,721 letters in support and one petition of support, were lodged with the Department of Infrastructure.

Originally expected to cost £77 million (€90 million), the budget had risen to £110 million (€130 million) by last year.

Stormont was to pay £62 million (€73 million) of the cost, with the GAA paying the remaining £15 million (€118 million).

Any revised funding proposals for the redevelopment, which would likely take a number of years, have yet to be announced. It is also unclear yet whether there will be any further legal challenges to the final planning approval.

“This has been a long and complex process, predating my time as minister, however we must now move forward and see progress on the ground, progress that will bring many sporting, social and economic benefits not just to west Belfast but right across the city and beyond,” said Ms Mallon.

“This will be fantastic news for the GAA family across Ulster and Ireland, particularly with the Ulster Final taking place this Sunday.

“Here’s to an exciting Ulster final and many memorable games to come in a new state of the art stadium in Casement, now that the GAA is to finally have the home it deserves in Ulster.”

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