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Maskey slams Casement Park delay

FRUSTRATION: Cutting the grass at Casement Park at last week, however, six years on from its closure local MP, Paul Maskey, wants a decision made on the new planning application FRUSTRATION: Cutting the grass at Casement Park at last week, however, six years on from its closure local MP, Paul Maskey, wants a decision made on the new planning application
By Michael Jackson

WEST Belfast MP Paul Maskey has hit out at the Department for Infrastructure over its handling of a planning application for the redevelopment Casement Park.
The proposed £110 million development had previously faced setbacks due to safety concerns linked to the size of the stadium. Planning permission was granted for a 38,000 capacity stadium in 2013, but approval was quashed in a High Court legal challenge brought by local residents in 2014.
Casement Park has been closed since 2013 and has been sitting derelict for a number of years.
New plans to build a 34,000 capacity Casement Park were submitted by Ulster GAA in February 2017. This week, the Department for Communities confirmed that, if built, the new Casement Park would form part of a joint bid from the UK and Ireland to host the 2030 World Cup. However, the planning application for the stadium is still being assessed by officials at the Department for Infrastructure (DfI).
Speaking to the Andersonstown News, Sinn Féin’s Paul Maskey has criticised a “lack of urgency” amongst planners which remains an obstacle to the development.
“In 2009 the Executive agreed major redevelopments for the Windsor Park, Ravenhill and Casement Park stadia. These grounds catered for soccer, rugby and GAA respectively,” Mr Maskey said.
“Ten years on Windsor Park and Ravenhill are complete, but Casement remains stalled.
“The Casement project is a 34,000 capacity state-of-the-art stadium which would serve as a hub of Gaelic Games in Ulster and deliver a significant jobs boost to West Belfast.
“A number of local residents have expressed legitimate concerns about the size of the stadium and these concerns are being addressed.
“The main obstacle now appears to be the lack of urgency among government officials about this investment in West Belfast.
“A planning application for the new Casement stadium was submitted in 2017. Two years on, the Department for Infrastructure has still not decided whether to approve it. Meanwhile major applications which were submitted after the Casement Park proposal have been approved by the Department.
“It simply isn’t good enough and I will be continuing to press the Department for Infrastructure to take a decision on the planning application.
“A new and vibrant Casement Park will benefit everyone in the community including sports fans, residents and businesses. This is a landmark project. It will greatly enhance the regeneration of the West Belfast area and will be a first-class stadium for Gaelic games in Ulster. It needs to happen and Sinn Féin has worked tirelessly with all the stakeholders over the last ten years to make it happen.
“Casement was endorsed by the Executive and backed by all parties. I remain absolutely determined to see the stadium, and the jobs it will provide, delivered.”
Responding to the criticisms, a Department for Infrastructure spokesperson said: “The planning application for the redevelopment of Casement Park is being progressed at pace by officials in the Department for Infrastructure. The Department recognises the strategic importance of the proposal and also its complexity and officials are focused on getting the application as quickly as possible to the point where a decision is ready to be made.
“It is fair to say that this is a particularly complex proposal and one where different views and concerns are apparent and we need to ensure that all aspects of the planning process are progressed openly and correctly and in a manner that ensures that all relevant factors are considered. It will be recalled that the Courts quashed the previous planning approval for the redevelopment of Casement Park.
“Further environmental information (FEI) in relation to environmental health matters, existing use rights and traffic matters is due to be submitted by the applicant to the Department on or before 1 August 2019. On receipt of the FEI, the process requires that the application must be re-advertised and further consultations will take place with the relevant consultees. Thereafter, officials will progress the planning application to the point where it is ready for a decision to be made. The next stages will depend on the political and legislative context that applies at that point.”

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