Casement: residents using ‘flawed’ argument

By Staff Reporter

The judicial review of the Department of the Environ-ment’s decision to grant planning permission for the new Casement Park will enter its tenth and most likely final day of hearings on Thursday morning.

The case has been brought by residents’ group MORA who are seeking to overturn the planning decision, arguing that a 38,000-seater venue will block out light, dwarf surrounding homes and compound existing traffic congestion.

The case was originally expected to last three to four days but the complexity of the arguments presented by both sides has seen the proceedings run into a tenth day. Mr Justice Thomas Horner has already indicated that after the final day he will consider all the evidence and that a final decision is not to be expected before the middle of November, at the earliest.

The Department of the Environment’s QC Tony McGleenan has this week been outlining the Planning Service’s response to the case presented by MORA against the Casement blueprint.

David Scoffield, QC for MORA, had earlier argued that there was no need to replace Casement Park with a new stadium with a larger capacity given that Casement had not sold out for any event in decades, and that it was being redeveloped to such a considerable scale in order to facilitate concerts and other events.

But Mr McGleenan, for the Planning Service, rejected claims that concerts, car parking and other public events would be among its main uses.

The barrister predicted the new Casement would host 170 games annually against no more than four concerts per year, the court heard.

“The proposed use complained of here, concerts, community functions and parking, are clearly secondary to the sporting use to which this stadium will primarily be put,” Mr McGleenan argued.

Accusing the residents of using a “very selective comparison”, he continued: “The applicant has looked at the major games, of which there will be a few each year, and said ‘There may be four and there may be four concerts, therefore there’s equivalence, not a secondary use.’

“That’s an improper analysis, because the major games do not form the entirety of the picture of the use of Casement. Even in its dilapidated state at present it’s used for 115 sporting events per annum.”

He stressed: “Viewed properly, the concert use is clearly secondary, therefore properly considered ancillary by the planning authority in this case.”

Mr McGleenan also earlier warned that if MORA win their case the £61.4 million of public funding will be spent elsewhere and GAA fans will be stuck with a crumbling and decaying stadium.

The case continues.

 

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