Published Friday, 04 January 2013
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Planning permission for Balmoral Park, which includes new International standard showgrounds and associated show rings, was fast-tracked to allow the agricultural show to take place in its new venue outside Lisburn in May.
The application by the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society (RUAS) was put forward in June last year following the decision to relocate the show from the King's Hall in Belfast to the Maze.
"It has been determined within six months of its receipt by the officials in DOE Planning," Mr Attwood confirmed.
"As with all major planning applications I am making decisions quickly after giving careful consideration to the individual merits of each case."
Mr Attwood described the Balmoral Show as "an important event within Northern Ireland's calendar", adding that planning "can work to make decision to help our economy."
This will be the first real evidence that the Maze site is being developed and I think that's a good news story.
"I have given very careful consideration to this proposal, interrogating all of the issues, including the potential for traffic disruption in the area. I have concluded that effective traffic management by the applicant around events should keep disruption to a minimum," Mr Attwood said.
"It is full speed ahead by the show organisers to make it the biggest and best show possible, the SDLP minister told UTV.
"The new location creates new opportunities. If we manage this properly through traffic flow, more and more people can come to a show the scale of which is growing, the attraction of which is growing and the importance in terms of agriculture and agri-food is growing."
Colin McDonald, RUAS chief executive, said the new facility would create a centre for rural excellence in Northern Ireland.
He said: "The fact that planning permission has been fast-tracked shows us that there is a great deal of support for our strategic plans.
"This is very encouraging to the RUAS and supports the decision taken by our members last June to move the show to a new location. This announcement today brings us a step closer to developing a new, world-class showgrounds, and positions the RUAS at the hub of a potential centre for rural excellence at the new location.
"We look forward to running a bigger and better Balmoral Show for our members and the public this year and for many years to come at Balmoral Park," he added.
The Chairman of the Maze Long Development Corporation has welcomed the announcement.
'This announcement today reflects the momentum now being created for the development of the Maze Long Kesh site," Terence Brannigan said.
"We have worked closely with RUAS to progress and facilitate their proposed development of the 65 acre Balmoral Park as an important and integral part of Maze Long Kesh.
"We now look forward to welcoming the Balmoral Show to the site in May and I am confident that this is only the first step in maximising the economic development potential of this significant 347 acre site."