Positive planning decision for Casement Park hoped for 'within months'
By John Harrington
GAA Director General, Tom Ryan, hopes that a positive planning decision on the redevelopment of Casement Park in Belfast will be made “within months”.
Progress on the proposed 34,000 capacity redevelopment has stalled over the past three years while the Northern Ireland Assembly was suspended.
Ryan hopes that the restoration of Northern Ireland Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive will accelerate the project which is currently in the midst of a second planning application.
“The agreement tabled jointly by the Irish and British Governments, signed up to by the local parties, provides a firm commitment to deliver a new Casement Park as part of the Regional Stadia Programme,” wrote Ryan in his Annual Report which was unveiled in Croke Park today.
“There are other positive signs too. I have been greatly encouraged by the recent visit of the Minister for Finance Conor Murphy, MLA and the Minister for Communities Deirdre Hargey, MLA to the stadium.
“I am also encouraged by the resolute support from many quarters to deliver the project which will be transformational for the Association in Ulster, Antrim and Belfast.
“It is hoped that a positive planning decision for the 34,000-capacity stadium at the West Belfast site will be made within months.”
Ryan also warned though that planning approval is not the only hurdle to the redevelopment of the stadium.
The NI Executive’s budget for the redevelopment of the stadium dates to 2010/11 and wouldn’t suffice to cover the likely increased costs 10 years later.
“The commitment was to deliver the strategic requirements of the three sports at a total budget of £110m at that time," wrote Ryan in his Annual Report.
“Almost a decade later the stadia for rugby and soccer have long since been built, and the cost of providing the originally planned GAA stadium have doubtless increased significantly.
“So, we will need to secure additional public funding to ensure delivery of the Casement Park stadium. I must commend the Stadium Board under Chairman Tom Daly, and the entire Casement Park Project Team for their continued determination and resilience on this important project.
“I also thank the Stormont officials for their ongoing support and I sincerely hope that 2020 will be the year when we will finally see physical works commence at the site.”