Blow for GAA as angry residents reject new plan for Casement Park offering reduced capacity of 34,500
Angry west Belfast residents opposed to the GAA's redevelopment plans for Casement Park have slammed revised proposals revealed by the sporting body, describing them as "not acceptable".
The plans were presented by Ulster GAA at Conway Mill earlier this week as part of the second phase of a community consultation for the west Belfast stadium.
The unveiling came almost two years after the original design was thrown out by the High Court following objections from local residents.
At the launch, Tom Daly, chairman of the Casement Park Project Board, said the plans demonstrated Ulster GAA's "willingness to engage, listen and evolve our plan for a new Casement Park stadium".
But local residents remain unimpressed.
Mooreland and Owenvarragh Residents' Association (MORA), say that the revised GAA plans still envisage a new stadium which they feel is much too large to be squeezed onto the tightly-constrained area.
And they claim the new plans - which reduce the stadium's capacity from 38,000 to 34,500 - still far exceed the safe capacity of 18,264 suggested by the PSNI, the NI Ambulance Service and the NI Fire and Rescue Service.
Residents are also concerned about GAA plans to hold five major concerts per year at the proposed new venue.
It argues that the need to host such events demonstrates that the planned venue is not financially viable as a sporting venue alone.
A Mooreland and Owenvarragh Residents' Association spokesman commented last night.
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"While the revised proposals are not acceptable in their current form, MORA will nonetheless continue to engage in the consultation process," he said.
"We have attended the events that the GAA have organised in the Andersonstown area and will make a more detailed submission to the GAA within the consultation deadline of December 5, 2016.
"Ultimately, however, we believe that the GAA should acknowledge the very constrained nature of the Casement Park site and propose a redevelopment that is in keeping with its surroundings, ie, a county ground for Antrim with an appropriate and safe capacity.
"Enough time, money and energy has already been expended in the pursuit of an over-sized development that exceeds the capacity of the site."
Responding, a GAA spokesman said the organisation was "disappointed" at the tenor of their reaction.
"Over the last four days, we have had very positive engagement and feedback with the public and a wide range of stakeholders regarding our proposals for a provincial stadium at Casement Park.
"Our proposed design reduces height, scale, capacity, with the stadium envelope being further restricted. We are therefore very disappointed with MORA's response but encouraged by the significant positive feedback we have received from the community, including many local residents.
"We look forward to consulting with MORA as well as all stakeholders across west Belfast, Belfast and throughout Ulster, during stage two of our consultation."
The GAA will have been cheered by remarks from another residents' group, backing the new plans.
Andersonstown Regeneration Committee (ARC) welcomed the proposals.
"The new Casement Park on completion will regenerate west Belfast and the surrounding areas. It will help attract further investment to this area and will assist local businesses," the ARC statement said.