First court stage cleared over Casement

First court stage cleared over Casement

A residents group has cleared the first stage in their High Court bid to overturn the decision to approve a new 38,000 seater GAA stadium at Casement Park.

Leave was granted to seek a judicial review of planning permission being given for redevelopment of the ground in west Belfast.Members of the Mooreland and Owenvarragh Residents Association (MORA) claim the stadium will be too big for the neighbourhood.In court on Thursday, lawyers for the Department of the Environment did not oppose the legal action progressing to a full hearing in September.No injunction has been imposed to halt work on the £76m project in the meantime. The new stadium, to be built on the existing Casement site, is to include fully modern facilities and corporate resources.Most of the funding is coming from the Northern Ireland Executive through the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure.But according to MORA, a 38,000 seat ground cannot be justified.They argue that a stadium on that scale will block out light in surrounding homes, reduce the quality of life for those living close by and compound traffic problems in the area.As part of their case, it is contended that planning chiefs should have assessed it as a mixed-use facility also capable of holding concerts and other public events.Further issues dealing with Japanese knotweed and asbestos have also been raised.With MORA's legal team of barrister David Scoffield QC and solicitor Roger Watts having abandoned another claim about bias in the decision, leave was granted on all remaining grounds of challenge.Outside court Tony Dignan, a member of the residents group committee, insisted they were not completely opposed to redeveloping Casement Park."We are just against the scale of this; it's too big," he said."We don't think there's any need for a 38,000 seater stadium where it will only meet that capacity one day a year - the Ulster Championship final."Ryan Feeney of Ulster GAA, which is a notice party in the case, stressed that in granting leave the court has not decided on the merits of the residents' case.He also welcomed the move to fast-track the case to a full hearing in September, with no injunction on work in the meantime.Mr Feeney added: "The GAA has engaged in a comprehensive two and a half year engagement process with the local residents and the community and we will continue to do so."


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