Battle lines re-drawn over new Casement Park stadium plan

The BBC reports that the Mooreland and Owenvarragh Residents Association (MORA) has said it opposes the recently unveiled revised GAA plan for a new stadium at Casement Park.  MORA campaigned successfully against the original proposal.  From the BBC report

In a statement, the residents group said it supported a “suitable-sized redevelopment” that was safe, did not host concerts and was “part of the natural fabric of the community”.

“The revised proposals for the redevelopment of Casement Park do not meet those requirements,” it said.

“The safe capacity of the ground is in the range of 11,239 to 18,264.

“That is the considered view of a report jointly submitted to the Safety Technical Group (STG) in January 2016 by the PSNI, NI Ambulance Service and the NI Fire and Rescue Service.”

It said the GAA’s proposed stadium was “almost twice the capacity” of that assessment and that the new plans had not been signed off by the STG.

MORA also said it was “extremely concerning” that the revised proposals provide for a “two-thirds increase in the number of ‘non-sporting events”.

The residents group said it would “continue to engage in the consultation process”.

“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.”

On the other side of the argument, expect to hear more from the Sinn Féin and GAA friendly, self-styled Andersonstown Regeneration Committee, who conveniently appeared late in the day when the then Northern Ireland Sports Minister, Sinn Féin’s Carál Nί Chuilίn, and the project itself, was under pressure.

As an Irish News report from April 2015 notes

[ARC founder] Ms Bridghídín Heenan Heenan was chair of Ulster Camogie last year and is still involved in the organisation, but insisted ARC is “totally separate” from the GAA. “I’m a gael and like a lot of people I would like to see Casement there but I am not compromised,” she said. “We wanted a positive group of people together that has a positive outlook. We want to make sure investment comes in and meets the community’s needs. We want Casement to happen.”

Among those also involved in ARC is prominent republican Séanna Walsh, right, the man who in 2005 read the IRA statement announcing the end of its armed campaign.

Ms Heenan said although she has “personal friends” in Sinn Féin she is not involved in any political party.

The 51-year-old, who has lived all her life beside Casement, said the new residents’ group had not been “orchestrated” by anyone.

From the same BBC report noted previously

The Andersonstown Regeneration Committee (ARC) said it welcomed the new design and said the GAA had “listened and taken on board many of the concerns of the past”.

“We have spoken to many people this week since the announcement from the GAA was made.

“The vast majority of residents of Andersonstown are talking about it and there is plenty of positivity and excitement that this development will be on our doorstep within the next few years.”

Meanwhile, given the reported increase in the proposed number of ‘non-sporting events’ at the stadium, and the GAA’s ‘solution’ to the problem of traffic congestion and associated safety concerns at the site, in today’s Irish News, Newton Emerson notes

The GAA has revised its Casement Park plan with a park-and-ride solution to the stadium’s transport problem.

Project chair Tom Daly says this will require a “travel culture change” and [he] is not mistaken.

Gaelic games have a mainly rural following in Ulster and rural Ulster has a ‘travel culture’ straight out of the Dukes of Hazzard.

When Casement Park previously hosted large fixtures, cars were occasionally dumped along motorway slip-roads and up the hard shoulder of the M1.

Heh.

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

  • Seán South

    Uber-nimbyism minority-minority with an agenda..?..what the hell is going on.?

  • Paul

    11-18,000?! No point in building the thing. The residents group might say they are open to compromise but it doesn’t sound like it, seems like they want what they want and won’t accept anything else. If it doesn’t have a +30,000 capacity it’s pointless to build.

  • Declan Doyle

    Despite the hyperbolic headline there is not much of a surprise regarding the residents objections. Has there ever been a stadium built anywhere in Ireland that didnt get on the nerves of local residents? The size they want is way too small and despite their concerns, the longer this is delayed, the longer the area waits for a much needed pump in jobs and investent. Páirc an Chrócaigh sits in the heart of urban Dublin holding 83,000 souls as one the largest and finest stadia in Europe. If north Dubs can manage something almost triple the size of the proposed Belfast stadium; no doubt the good people of WB will learn to love and become proud of their new GAA home. long overdue now so lets get on with it.

  • Jollyraj

    Declan is, in essence, telling the residents to sit down, shut up, and get on with it. Or, “learn to love” it, as he charmingly puts it. Interesting contrast to the script he picks up in July when people who live nearby the routes of a small number of Orange parades become concerned. Perhaps he can explain this disparity? why does he feel that the rights of some residents are more important than others.

    On balance, I find myself sympathizing with those who don’t want a massively enlarged stadium on their doorstep – and year round, at that. not just for a few hours in summer once or twice per year.

    Mind you, being something of a sportsman myself, I also have some compassion for the GAA fans who wonder what on earth has happened to the cash poured into this white elephant to date.

  • Jollyraj

    Easy to say that, but unless you live in the area you wouldn’t personally be affected. It’s a cost-benefit balance, in the end. Someone stands to make a hell of a lot of cash from this – the initial construction, ticket revenue for games and gigs etc, and the residents will bear the costs of noise, traffic, congestion and the usual anti-social elements that large crowds can draw. SF are very much backing the side that look like reaping a tidy profit, with little interest in the concerns of their voter base. Dangerous game.

  • Dan

    Far too big for the needs of the GAA. A vanity project which may be filled for a few games until the novelty wears off…then it’ll be a costly white elephant, and the residents left to suffer the consequences.
    Still, i suppose its only public money being thrown down the drain…again

  • Glenn

    This location is not just being lined up as a GAA ground, they are looking to use it for concerts and other sports using the ground. So the few times a year the GAA will fill it is only one issue, it’s all the other uses and times they finish. Have the GAA also stated how many homes will be demolished to facilitate this vanity project.

  • John

    Just ditch the idea of a stadium at Casement these residents are never going to be happy. Build a multi-purpose stadium (although primarily for the GAA) down at Titanic Quarter or Sirocco … Ulster Rugby / NI could play some of their bigger games there which would help finances for them and the stadium itself. Concert music won’t be bothering anybody. Would be a massive spin off for the city centre bars/shops/restaurants. We need to be bringing people into the city.

  • “Declan is, in essence, telling the residents to sit down, shut up, and get on with it. Or, “learn to love” it, as he charmingly puts it.”

    Which is exactly what they were told the first time round.

    Until they won the judicial review.

    As I’ve pointed out, expect more from the apparently locally concerned ARC in future discussions.

    But don’t expect Seanna Walsh to be making any statements…

  • “If it doesn’t have a +30,000 capacity it’s pointless to build.”

    Which is exactly what it appears to be. Pointless.

  • chrisjones2

    Why dont they site it at Cookstown where the Police College (remember that) was to go.I bet the Police Board would be delighted to offload the white elephant. Ideally situated as its central with new roads promsied to be built to Derry and Dublin and everywhere else (except Belfast)

  • hgreen

    How will the residents suffer? Seems like the place will be tidied up.

  • AntrimGael

    From the outside it really does seem to be boiling down to about 20 residents not having the perfect life in and around the ground. It is ridiculous that such a small NIMBY element can stop such an important investment in West Belfast.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    “Has there ever been a stadium built anywhere in Ireland that didnt get on the nerves of local residents?” Not only in Ireland ! I remember Arsenal FC having the same problems in London for its Emirates Stadium !

  • Gopher

    I hope no public money is involved in this until the foundations are dug. All capacity for people to benefit financially from the public purse by stringing allow this process should be closed. I hope one the executive will ensure this is the case. If not they need embarrassed.

  • hgreen

    Have you only just become aware of capitalism? Of course some people will make money from the project. The question is why should some residents be able to stop the redevelopment of a ground that’s been there for over 60 years. If they had a problem with the ground why have they waited until now to complain?

    The place is an eye sore and needs rebuilt.

  • Old Mortality

    Perhaps it’s not GAA cash.

  • chrisjones2

    Or the recognition that something else is going on here and someone stands to benefit at the expense of local people. Its interetsing taht it now seem accepted that the last plans did hold dangers to the fians ….but hey its GAA so what does that matter

  • chrisjones2

    Dont kid yourself……huge amounts will have already been poured into it to get to this stage

  • chrisjones2

    The bottom line is that on planning and traffic grounds this should not be approved. The assumption is that because its the GAA it should override all other considerations

  • Granni Trixie

    Traffic? Disruption? Wouldn’t like it in my back yard.

  • Granni Trixie

    But be honest – would you like this in your back yard?

  • Katyusha

    Good job you aren’t directing this, Chris. Tyrone GAA already has a reasonably sized and presentable stadium at Healy Park.

    Even if it would be impressive, if a little superfluous, to build Casement into a flagship venue for Ulster, the fact remains that it’s present sorry state is an embarrassment. In any case the new proposed capacity isn’t much larger than Casement’s former capacity, it’s just modernised and presentable rather than an expanse of bare concrete.

  • hgreen

    It’s been there for 60 years. Have you/they just noticed it?

  • hgreen

    Again there has been a stadium there for 60 years. They are just renovating it. A pile of new houses on the site will create permanent traffic disruption.

  • Gingray

    Yes. I was in favour of it being moved to Ormeau park. Plenty of great days at Casement Park in the past, its been a bad few years

  • Gingray

    Have you ever been around Casement on a game day? Less disruption than with Ravenhill despite bigger attendance’s

  • Gingray

    Just showing your ignorance here, its a stadium for Antrim in the first instance, with Cookstown being in Tyrone, thats a problem.

    Maybe understand what you are talking about rather than blatent GAA bashing?

  • Granni Trixie

    Indeed, many friends of mine went to school in Casement whilst waiting For Holy Child school to be built.

  • chrisjones2

    WHy cant Ulsters venue be in Tyrone?

  • chrisjones2

    It used to be that SF could just railroad this through and take the loss of a few votes. Can they now afford it?

  • Teddybear

    we should not be funding an organisation that is against the Union

  • Katyusha

    No reason whatsoever, but a) there’s no point in building a stadium in Cookstown when Tyrone already have a ground in Omagh, and b) Casement needs rebuilt anyway. The revised plans are a much needed renovation of a badly dilapidated ground. While it might be nice to have the extra capacity, it doesn’t change the fact that Antrim GAA needs a suitable home, and Ulster would benefit massively from having a modern stadium to host its flagship games in.

  • Vince

    Actually that’s not right. Elderly parents live nearby and effectively under house arrest on match day with cars parked fairly indiscrimately and burger stalls outside their front door. Throwing in a few rock concerts can only make that worse.

  • AntrimGael

    ….but it’s OK to fund UDA/UFF linked ‘community groups’, Loyalist paramilitary affiliated bands and horrible, vile supremacist, bigoted organisations like the Orange Order?

  • Paul

    Rebuilding the stadium to the standard they are proposing isn’t a pointless exercise, as others have said the stadium has been there with a circa 30,000 capacity for the past 60 years, on top of that the GAA have added in new car parking facilities with park and ride buses being put on for supporters in order to help with traffic congestion.
    As for this argument of “would you like it in your backyard?” it was there for 60 years did the residents think it would never get redeveloped? If Ulster GAA are going to build a stadium, Casement Park is really the only option it has.
    Because its in Belfast if you lived there and wanted to go to the match you could be there in 30 mins (I’m aware there are thousands of supporters throughout the county who travel to games but i’m talking about people right on the catchment area of the stadium), has good transport links with the motorway nearby, and there are plenty of places to eat, drink and shop nearby, putting it anywhere else wouldn’t work.
    Like I said previously it looks like the residents group is deliberately putting forward proposals it knows the GAA can’t accept in order to appear constructive but ultimately knows they will be rejected.

  • rustbucketblues

    You could understand the objectors more if it was a new development. However, and this may bear repeating for all the Unionist posters who have never been to the area, never will go there and who, let’s be honest, whose ’empathy for the concerns of the residents’ is little more than a convenient cloak for some TUV-style GAA-bashing, Casement Park has been there for years and it’s an eyesore – a vast ugly expanse of outdated corrugated and crumbling concrete. The new version, if it’s allowed, will, like all modern stadia, look great and will improve the look of the area. What do these resident NIMBYs do on a Sunday that is so important anyway? They’ll have plenty of time to get back from Glasgow from the Celtic game! I bet you if it was a soccer stadium, there’d not be a peep out of them.

  • OneNI

    rural Ulster has a ‘travel culture’ straight out of the Dukes of Hazzard. LOL

  • Jollyraj

    Indeed. I’m sure Walsh will be staying off this particular stage.

  • Katyusha

    It’s not massively enlarged. The new plans for a 34,500 capacity stadium are only an increase of ~2000 on Casement’s previous capacity. At this point, the plans are more of a modernisation than an expansion. By contrast the residents’ proposed upper limit on capacity of 18,000 would constrain Casement to being one of the smallest county GAA grounds in Ulster, never mind having any provincial relevance.

  • Katyusha

    How do you square the idea that it is “Far too big for the needs of the GAA” with the fact that it would be smaller than Clones and much smaller than the soon-to-be-completed redevelopment of Pairc Ui Chaoimh? What kind of size do you think would “fit the needs of the GAA”?

    You might be waiting for a long time for the novelty to wear off, given that the Ulster Championship has only been held for the last 128 years.

  • Brendan Heading

    Speaking of agendas, here’s a link to a development committee report on Belfast City Council concerning the proposed office block at the junction of Stewart Street and East Bridge Street (ie the waste ground next to Central Station).

    The Sinn Féin MLA for the area, Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, is on record making several objections to the development. For convenience, I’ve copied them below. You’ll see that the objections are wide-ranging and include suggestions that the development will dominate residential properties, create parking and traffic problems, and are of an inappropriate scale for the area.

    It’s a curious matter that residents in one part of Belfast are entitled to object to developments on this basis, and enjoy the benefit of support of their SF MLA, while residents in another part of Belfast (one which is overwhelmingly represented by Sinn Féin) have similar concerns dismissed as NIMBYism ..

    1. Concern regarding the scale of the proposal in a residential area which would
    dominate the residential properties in the immediate area;
    2. Access to the Tunnels Project – impact of the proposal in this community
    project;
    3. Connectively – pedestrian access through the site at different locations in order
    to prevent the Tunnels and the site from being severed from the Markets
    community;
    4. Inappropriate scale, massing and design;
    5. Community benefit – there must be tangible benefits for the community and to
    ensure the sustainability of the Tunnels project;
    6. Commuter car parking – this is a serious issue in the Markets Area and it poses
    a health and safety hazard for all residents – does the development include
    sufficient car parking for potential office workers;
    7. Detrimental Impact on the physical and mental wellbeing of residents – lower the
    quality of life for residents;
    8. Overshadowing;
    9. Residents will have no privacy – contrary to Article 8 of the Human Rights Act
    10. Major detrimental impact on residential property prices;
    11. No mix of affordable housing included within the proposal;
    12. Height of the proposal is contrary to BMAP;
    13. No provision is made to improve the layout of Stewart Street which is
    dangerous – problem further heighted with additional traffic as a result of the
    proposal;
    14. Vacant offices in proximity to the site that should be occupied rather than
    creating additional office space at this location;
    15. Assessment of environmental impact – wind analysis and air quality

  • Seán South

    Apples and Oranges B… your trying to shove square pegs into round holes on this one…

  • Brendan Heading

    You can’t go around the place accusing people of NIMBYism while supporting NIMBY claims on the other side of town.

  • whatif1984true

    Some fresh thinking required. There should be regulation of the Stadium which specifically controls the problems foreseen by the residents which will automatically reduce the numbers allowed in the Stadium if those regulations are breeched. It will be up to the GAA to ensure that they keep within the rules.
    We all know that once something is up there will be changes and ‘blind eyes’ to transgressions. Problems will embed and the residents will become powerless forever. There will be cries to hold more events as such a project will have substantial ongoing running costs which will cripple the funders. They will say ‘you cannot deny us the chance to earn money to pay for up keep’ etc etc.
    Promoters of these type of schemes promise much and deliver little. That is the way of the world.
    The residents know that now is the time to fight.
    Undertake to close off the streets to all but residents on match days (paid for by GAA). Undertake to have X number of events per annum with a rider that it can only be overridden with approval of Z number of local residents approving.
    Understand that the Stadium will create a nuisance and try to do something which recognises that and will compensate residents for it on an ongoing basis.

  • whatif1984true

    What percentage of ANY street actually attends a match (GAA or Soccer)?

  • whatif1984true

    In any week what will the new stadium produce that the current Stadium doesn’t? Why not build it on the left side of Monagh bypass? The value in land of Casement must surely be much greater than there.
    Ultimately if Casement wasn’t already in existence no one would seriously propose building it at Owenvarragh, its silly to suggest otherwise.

  • whatif1984true

    In truth this has more to do with attendance numbers, the plan is to considerably increase these otherwise why build it.

  • whatif1984true

    Its your money.

  • Gingray

    Did you ever actually go to the old Casement for a game?

    It was fairly dire (tho charming in its own way, I miss the grass bank they had before the terracing arrived).

  • whatif1984true

    Begs the question why have the GAA been ok to leave it as an eyesore without at least some work to improve the look of it. Answer they didn’t care what it looked like to residents.

  • Gingray

    Vince, I appreciate that – there are several solutions. One is for no sports to be played in places with houses. Is this your solution?

    Rarely seen too many cars near the stadium however, streets are generally shut off for non residential traffic (much like around Ravenhill).

    For the number of games that will draw a big crowd (1-2 hurling games, 2-3 football games), I do not see the issue – the vast majority of games will be mid – low level, with substantially lower attendances.

  • AntrimGael

    There are big stands at Solitude and Seaview, right beside residents houses, and you never hear them moaning or running to the media. The objections to the new Casement are more about daylight for the begonias and rock pools; It’s middle class NIMBYism, nothing less.

  • John Collins

    In all fairness if Derry was not big enough to accommodate a University, it is hard to see any town in Tyrone catering for a 34,000 capacity Stadium

  • murdockp

    Your argument is flawed. just because a stadium currently exists does not justify building an even bigger one. The site has to be able to handle with ease the juggernaut of activity that accompanies a match day or concert event.

    This site can not handle the traffic of a Macrory cup match never mind an Ulster final.

  • murdockp

    This is no investment in the local area. An investment as the words suggest is designed to deliver a return both financially and socially to whoever foots the bill.

    A business case showing the construction of 200 houses on the site would deliver a far greater return than a stadium that will be used to capacity four times a year.

  • murdockp

    A knock down and rebuild is not a renovation.

    At least you acknowledge that building on the site will have an affect on traffic disruption. At least this is an acknowledgement of the issue 40,000 people on match day will cause.

  • murdockp

    Every time the Ulster Championship is featured on the News, most GAA stadia look half empty. The GAA confirmed in last week saying attendances are down 30%.

  • murdockp

    Its entire business case to data was 100% GAA which is why the money was split to let Windsor and Raven Hill do their own thing.

    the GAA are only wheeling out the other sports to try and get planning approval by sucking in a many sports as they can in the hope they can bring enough of the public with them.

    Truth is the new stadium should have full athletics capability as well and built on a 20 acre site.

  • rustbucketblues

    Well the previous arguments were about evacuation safety. These appear to have been addressed. You’re right, parking is difficult. Park and ride is essential. Once people have experienced the convenience of that, few would wish to sit stewing in traffic.

  • Katyusha

    Not really surprising with the style of football right now dominant in Ulster being pretty dire to watch. But it’s no excuse to do the typical Irish thing of not planning or preparing for the future – only ten years ago we were playing the Ulster final in Croke Park due to lack of capacity, and in the intervening ten years we’ve done nothing to ease the issues which caused that.

    If you’re saying that there’s no need for every county in Ulster to have 18,000+ capacity grounds, then I agree with you. Gaelic Football is mainly centred around the championship, there isn’t the week-in week-out attendance you get at soccer games: better to have a few modern stadia for the whole country (say, one per province) to play big championship games in. Croke is only filled a few times per year and is really too big for many of the games played there.

  • whatif1984true

    Yes

  • Gingray

    So then, in this instance, can you agree that renovating (rather than build as you say) could be more than about numbers (as you have claimed) – it could, and does, also cover modernising a stadium?

  • 05OCT68

    So lets not redevelop rundown stadia to attract punters back?

  • 05OCT68

    Come on, can’t we accommodate the big percentage of Catholics that Unionism tells us that support the Union?

  • Vince

    Having stadium away from a residential area but with good transport links would be one option. Strict enforcement of parking restrictions to residents only/disabled would be another with proper regulation of food outlets/other stalls. Extensive use of park & ride with extra trains stopping at Finaghy & Balmoral halts would be required – the latter will however be of little help to those travelling from Cavan, Monaghan, Donegal, Fermanagh & Tyrone. 35000 does seem like a huge number given what I have previously seen with crowds of 10-15,000.
    It’s a separate point but also not sure that the taxpayer should be contributing to this or other builds – Ravenhill, Windsor Park etc. These are private organisations, manifestly able to seek their own sponsors/television deals and in the case of the GAA have few overheads in terms of prize money or player wages…… unless of course some of the profits from their operations come rolling back to the public purse.