Casement Park: campaigners go down legal route

By Francesca Ryan

A residents’ group opposed to the granting of planning permission for the redevelopment of Casement Park to the current dimensions has applied for a judicial review of the decision.

The Mooreland and Owenvarragh Residents’ Association (MORA) say they’ve applied for the High Court review in the hope of getting the green light overturned. The group claims that despite engaging with the relevant stakeholders for over two years, their concerns have been ignored and the GAA has “refused to compromise”. In a letter delivered to residents living in the vicinity of the park, the group said they have been left with no choice but to go down the legal route.

“We acknowledge the presence of the existing sports ground but, in our judicial review application, maintain that a stadium in the range of 20,000 to 25,000 is the upper limit of capacity for this site, having regard to location within a densely populated residential area, positioning, scale, mass, light and amenity and the possibility of handling related traffic,” says the group.

MORA says the application for judicial review sets out the reasons why the decision should be deemed unlawful, citing correspondence, research reports, meeting minutes, issues papers, policy documents and legislation.

“With regard to the legality of the decision,” it reads, “MORA argues that the DoE [Department of the Environment] erred in treating the application as one with a single primary use (namely, use as a sports stadium). Instead, the application should have been for a mixed use site. The GAA proposes having non-sporting events such as concerts and has made provision for extensive catering, bar and dining facilities. These uses were not clearly defined in the planning application, nor were the non-sporting facilities described in sufficient detail on the plans. Consequently, factors such as concerts and traffic from non-sporting events did not receive adequate consid-eration.”

The group also contends that a claim that the old park catered for 32,600 is wrong.

“This assumption has resulted in impacts such as traffic being assessed on the basis of the development only involving an increase in 5,400 spectators – a position unsupported by evidence and unrelated to reality. Casement attendances have not reached 32,600 at any time in the last 10 years and in that period have exceeded 20,000 on only two occasions. Police have stated that a 38,000 crowd would be 50 per cent larger than anything they have dealt with in the last 12 years. Yet PSNI concerns have not been given adequate weight.”

 

Infrastructure

Other issues include the impact of such a large-scale development on local residents living nearby as well as infrastructure, including access, drainage and parking. MORA also claims that the decision to grant planning permission was “infected with apparent bias and/or was predetermined”.

They claim not enough weight was given to representations by the NI Environment Agency Landscape Branch which noted the negative impacts due to the scale and mass, and they say an Environmental Statement revealed “no exploration by the GAA of other possible sites for a stadium of this scale”.

“MORA is particularly concerned about the lack of public participation, notably the failure to make available any business case for a project which will cost £64 million in public money.   Nor has the public been provided with adequate details of measures to manage significant adverse effects, particularly with regard to removing asbestos-containing materials and Japanese knotweed, both of which have been found.

“These are all matters that could have been examined had a public inquiry been held – as MORA requested.

“For these and other reasons, we believe that the planning permission was unlawful and that we have a strong case to bring for judicial review and good prospects of success.”

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