There Is No Alternative! (to Casement Park development plan) – Redux

Belfast High Court has ruled that the decision to grant planning permission for the controversial £70million redevelopment of Casement Park in west Belfast was “fundamentally flawed”.  However, Mr Justice Horner did not quash the decision, and will take further submissions from lawyers for the Department of the Environment, the GAA and the residents group who mounted the legal challenge before ruling on what the alternative actually is.  From the Irish Times report

The overall bill for the redevelopment in west Belfast has now risen by £2.7 million.

Counsel for the GAA also revealed nearly £5m of preliminary work will be lost if the scheme is halted.

Since the hearing, a redeveloped Casement Park has emerged as a potential venue in Ireland’s bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

But as he began his judgment today, Mr Justice Horner stressed: “The court refused to be influenced by financial and sporting advantages or disadvantages that may accrue to either party.”

Members of MORA and Stormont Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín were among those packed into Queen’s Bench Courtroom Number 2 for the verdict.

Setting out the grounds on which the challenge succeeded, the judge said the 32,600 spectator baseline or ‘fall-back position’ did not reflect the reality of normal match-day attendances. He pointed out that the GAA never obtained planning rights for the present stadium to facilitate such a large number.

Safety issues with the present terracing meant it would be impossible to admit 32,000 people, the judge said. Due to the 32,600 baseline, the department only assessed the impact of an extra 5,400 coming into the new ground and concluded that an event management plan would cope with such an increase. Roads Service did not carry out a traffic impact assessment of a capacity 38,000 crowd coming into the area, the court heard.

Having held that the department wrongly adoped the 32,600 baseline, Mr Justice Horner also described this approach as fundamentally flawed. No determination was reached on whether the failure to inform the Minister of police safety concerns was deliberate or accidental.

But the judge concluded that it denied Mr Durkan the opportunity to consider all relevant evidence. On that basis, he ruled, his decision to grant planning permission was “irretrievably flawed”.

Defects were also identified in the environmental survey, with no assessment of the impact on local residents of extra stadium facilities such as conference suites, bars, restaurants and car parking. With a further failure to engage with home owners about mitigating the risk of any asbestos escaping from the site during demolition and building work, Mr Justice Horner confirmed the Department had not carried out an assessment in accordance with the regulations. [added emphasis]

Mr Justice Horner did not rule on whether the political original decision to fund the project was fundamentally flawed…  However,  as BBC NI political editor Mark Devenport mentioned back in March 2011

…one aspect of the announcement which is questionable is its very symmetry. If the Executive took a needs based approach rather than a politically expedient route, would both the GAA and Soccer require exactly £61.4 million? I know it’s a sporting cliche to talk about a “game of two halves”, but is this the sporting equivalent of the judgment of Solomon?

It stirs memories of the symmetrical solution to the Victims Commissioner dilemma – we can’t agree on one so let’s appoint four.

Update  And, after hearing those further submissions, Mr Justice Horner has, indeed, quashed the decision to grant planning approval for the redevelopment of Casement Park stadium.  From the BBC report

A GAA spokesman said the organisation was disappointed with the ruling but added that it will submit a new planning application next year.

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  • Practically_Family

    The cash was split three ways though…

  • Bryan Magee

    It would be good if the new stadium can be made available to rugger and soccer on the (few) times when a 38k crowd is possible for them. Its quite a nice looking stadium.

  • Tacapall

    Should Windsor Park be made available to the GAA for games, just until the new stadium gets built ?

  • Practically_Family

    Why? It’s only 18k and St. Tiernach’s is just down the road a bit in Clones.

  • Bryan Magee

    Why not? I think there have been GAA things at Windsor before now, as too at Ravers.

  • Bryan Magee

    Isn’t it quite hard to access using public transport?

  • Tacapall

    GAA things ? I dont live far from Windsor and I’ve never heard of any GAA matches being played there. Perhaps it was a closed session.

  • Ernekid

    Is anyone else sick of these NIMBY’s? Redeveloping Casement is a core aspect of renovating that part of Belfast and will essential for Ireland’s Rugby World cup bid.

    If only the bid for a multi sport stadium at the Maze got off the ground.

  • Gopher

    Don’t think it was a match but I do remember David Jeffries inviting a GAA team to train when their facilities were down to the weather or something.

  • Gopher

    Repeat after me “we can rule ourselves”. yet again it has been proved we are incapable. Infact I’m beginning to think there is a racket going on between our politicians and lawyers. Every infrastructure project seems to fill lawyers pockets

  • Bryan Magee

    That’s right.

  • Bryan Magee

    I am not sure about the Maze – we have three good stadia in-town and with different capacities that makes for a more versatile set of facilities.

  • Dan

    The cost of this shambles should be borne, personally, by the incompetents who forced through such a flawed, and utterly inconsiderate and selfish design.
    Send the bill to Cullen and Durkan.

  • Tacapall

    Dan is Stormont paying the legal costs of the GAA ?

  • Glenn Clare

    Did St Mary’s camogie team ever take up the offer of training at Windsor Park?? The offer made to the west Belfast camogie team, by then Linfield manager David Jeffery.

    http://www.armaghgaa.net/forum/threads/cooney-maintains-tough-stance-on-club-facilities.899/

  • Practically_Family

    The RWC bid is an interesting case actually. Casement would likely be looking at 2/3 matches a week for two months, many of them near capacity.

    I’m far from convinced Ireland can handle it, in fact that’s untrue, as stands I know we can’t.

  • Ernekid

    The Aviva Stadium
    Thomond Park
    Ravenhill
    Croke Park
    Redeveloped Parc Ui Chaoimh in Cork
    Redeveloped Semple Stadium in Thurles.
    Redeveloped Casement Park
    Redeveloped Windsor Park??

    With all those venues (with the addition of the Millennium stadium in Cardiff if it’s needed.) it’s definitely possible for Ireland to hold the Rugby World Cup in 2023. If they upgraded the road and rail links between cities before then Ireland would be a prime candidate.

  • Practically_Family

    With all those venues and several more, (the bid is based upon 11 stadia) it definitely isn’t.

  • Croiteir

    Listened to George Hook discuss this and he was not in anyway worried about the capability of Ireland being able to be the host nation without Casement. He reckons that there are plenty of stadiums/stadia? in the south to handle it, Ravenhill would be able to hold the likes of Georgia v other unknown

  • Practically_Family

    It’s generally a more popular venue than Casement…

    But even taking that into account, it’s big enough, Windsor isn’t.

  • Bryan Magee

    The plan is also to expand Ravers by 30% in terms of capacity.

  • NMS

    GAA ground in Killarney’s could easily be redeveloped and also has more hotel rooms close by than Belfast. The Gaelic Grounds in Limerick could also be redeveloped by adding more seats very quickly. Even Pearse Stadium in Galway are all alternatives with lots of hotel rooms in the vicinity.

    The locals in West Belfast were right to stand up to the various clowns who came up with the proposed redevelopment. Perhaps it is time to drop Belfast completely and keep it solely for one side of the Border? There are certainly sound tax reasons to do so (no VAT on tickets) and tax free profits (Section 205 TCA 1997)

  • aber1991

    Windsor Park would be no use to the GAA. A soccer pitch is far too short for Gaelic football or hurling.

  • aber1991

    It was not a GAA team. It was a camogie team. Contrary to popular belief, the GAA does not promote or control camogie.

  • kensei

    The people most hurt if thus fails to go ahead will be the people of West Belfast. What other economic stimulus are they going to get, especially in these times?

    Shambles.

    Also what has the amount of money doled out to soccer got to do with anything here?

  • Dixie Elliott

    Another burnt turkey…

  • Thomas Girvan

    Yes these people who live in the shadow of Casement Park are so selfish.
    All they care about is the price of their houses plummeting, and their quality of life.
    Why did they not give it a try? After a few years, they would probably get used to the traffic congestion, and living in constant semi darkness.
    A bunch of moaning Minnies!

  • Practically_Family

    There’s another stadium where you’re going to have to offer the locals a bit of a package if you’re going to run an RWC tempo competition. See also Thomond and Croke.

  • chrisjones2

    Its only money

  • chrisjones2

    How did they get a pic without an haze of smoke?

  • chrisjones2

    shallow racism? Moi?

  • Dan2

    Yes

  • Practically_Family

    “Perhaps it is time to drop Belfast completely and keep it solely for one
    side of the Border? There are certainly sound tax reasons to do so (no
    VAT on tickets) and tax free profits (Section 205 TCA 1997)”

    That would go down well with Ulster Branch… Not.
    Pearse & The Gaelic Ground are both propsed stadia. Killarney I haven’t seen mentioned.

  • Croiteir

    Racist – how?

  • Zig70

    Wasn’t Casement there when they bought the house?

  • Zig70

    Probably Casement isn’t the best fit, My Dad loves his footie but walking isn’t easy anymore. With the money made from the land it could well be moved. Some where with parking would be a dream. Instead of a multi-use stadium at the Maze, could we not have just a GAA one? And please build it big enough for championship matches. I think 38k could be little short-sighted and the judge didn’t do his research on crowds in Clones and the rest of Ireland.

  • Tochais Siorai

    When is that ground going to be full (or anywhere near it) apart from the RWC and the Ulster final? The country is full of GAA grounds which are far too big and for the bulk of games they host are devoid of atmosphere because the crowd is lost in them.

  • NMS

    PF I just state the obvious. I thought I heard Killarney mentioned at some stage. From the perspective of direct flights, there is Cork and Farranfore, the place has also handled large concerts in the past and does anywhere else have so many hotel rooms?

    Attendance at matches in Ireland is exempt from VAT, liable to 20% VAT in UKNI. The Irish tax exemption for sporting bodies very comprehensive. That is why the British Lions Ltd is registered in Dublin and the European Competitions were based there too for exactly the same reasons. The UK sporting exemption for amateur clubs CASC does not cover larger organisations, correctly in my view.

    The only reasons for involving Belfast are political and the promise of financial support. Practically it can be bypassed.

  • Barneyt

    We should consider a new site and a new stadium altogether. I suggest just south of Newry, near Jonesborough. Newry itself lacks a venue for large public performances. There’s not much that can be done in the town itself as parking is always going to be an issue and the infrastructure is not up to it.

    There are many acres that could be purchased and developed between the main A1 north of Jonesborough and to the east of the lower foughill road – basically between Meigh and the old Dublin road customs (Killeen).

    This would justify the much needed link between Cloughoge roundabout (near the old army checkpoint) and the start of the Newry to Warrenpoint dual carriage-way. There is no way to get from Warrenpoint to Dublin, other than navigating via Newry. The Narrow water bridge project has failed (for ridiculous reasons) however we should think about this area on a grander scale.

    The next time anyone drives south and as you approach the Carrickdale hotel, take a look to your right and tell me this area could not accommodate a glorious piece of architecture that a fine stadium could bring.

    Its import that the rugby world cup touches both jurisdictions, as this is reflective of the teams make up.

  • sean treacy

    To Baker,Davenport and their ilk I say ” mind your own business,neither the GAA or West Belfast have anything to do with you!”

  • Bryan Magee

    The new Casement Park looks like a great addition to the stock of stadia in Belfast – its capacity would be useful to Rugger and Soccer at times when there is a big match on .

  • Practically_Family

    Can’t see it getting much use for rugby, it would take a game, probably an Ulster game at that, with the potential to use the capacity having to be played on a date Aviva was unavailable.

    Not too many of them.

  • Practically_Family

    You’re not going to build a new stadium on a new site for 60 and some odds million.

  • Practically_Family

    Quite. And the potential political fall-outs are just another reason why we can’t handle it.

    Farranfore as an entry point? Please!

  • Practically_Family

    Although airports aren’t really an issue. Dublin, both Belfasts, Cork & Shannon are more than adequate.

  • Bryan Magee

    On a big match day it might be a good way to bring Ulster rugby to a bigger and wider audience in Ulster itself, mind!

  • John Gorman

    Its 77 million and if they sell the land at casement then they can use the money for a new site. Plenty of stadiums have been built in Europe with similar budgets. Take at look at juventus

  • John Gorman
  • Dan

    A big ‘soccer’ match at Casement?
    Unless Cliftonville draw Celtic, who exactly is going to be welcome to avail of this white elephant from the ‘soccer’ world in Northern Ireland?

  • Bryan Magee

    I take on board the need for more investment in Newry area but for this project seems a bit far away from Belfast in terms of reach-doesn’t do much for GAA in Belfast, building a wider Belfast based audience for the game and so forth.

  • Bryan Magee

    I think the new Windsor with its capacity of 20k is great for most of the big fixtures with the Irish League teams but if NI were to draw England or some other big team like that, I recon that you could sell 35k seats or whatever capacity it winds up being.

  • Bryan Magee

    Not sure you want to go for that out-of-town stuff – better to get people there on the train and enjoy the bars and local hostelries, etc. Does more in terms of “spillover” effects for the local economy in Belfast. Might need to improve links from Casement across the M1 to the line.

  • Dan

    NI v England …at Casement Park..
    You had me going there. Good one.

  • Bryan Magee

    Why not? Have you seen the plans for new Casement, it looks really cool. I recon it would be a great place for the larger soccer (as well as rugger) games.

  • Reader

    Don’t shoot the messenger. They are only following the progress of a legal case, tracking incompetence (at best) in the planning system. That is surely the business of the whole community?

  • sean treacy

    They dont give a damn about either the people of west Belfast or the GAA.

  • NMS

    Farranafore or should I say Kerry Airport could handle some of the in and out flights on the days of matches. But perhaps the good hoteliers of Killarney aren’t pushed one way or another.

    Ireland can handle it, but whether Belfast can be as involved is a different matter. If UKNI grounds are to be involved, why not Celtic Park in L’Derry? My guess is that the residents of that city would jump at the chance to put one over on Belfast. The attraction of Belfast is that there is a local rugby market.

  • Barneyt

    yep…it would need to be part of a wider development strategy…hence my remarks regarding roads, bridges and general infrastructure. Newry is a massive bottleneck, despite the bypass.

    But if we can get the resources for the Narrow Water bridge, then yep, I’m in dreamland.

  • Barneyt

    “can’t get the resources”

  • Practically_Family

    It might. But it’s also a good way of splitting the gate.
    Like I said, don’t see it being availed of for rugby just for the sake of it.

  • Practically_Family

    Yeah but… Nah.

  • Practically_Family

    The proposal for the Stadium at Maze, 6/7 years ago, put the cost at well in excess of £300M. Including the supporting infrastructure. Of that, about half was for the stadium itself, more or less the same payout as was awarded to GAA, IFA & IRFU altogether.

  • aber1991

    Indeed. And worse, much worse, some of these stadiums (or stadia, or what ever is the plural of stadium) have/are being built in locations which are not central locations. Casement Park is one. Celtic Park in Derry City is another – and far away from the GAA heartland in County Derry. Worst of all, the proposed very expensive vanity project die to start in Cork City – a venue which will rarely be used as a neutral venue.

  • aber1991

    “Attendance at matches in Ireland is exempt from VAT, liable to 20% VAT in UKNI”
    Can I presume that by “Ireland” you mean “Eire”?
    I did not know that attendance at matches in Eire was exempt from VAT. That might explain why the GAA insists on staging Ulster Finals at that hell hole called “Clones”.

  • aber1991

    Barney
    I am active in the GAA and have been for a very long time. And, at one time, was active at a fairly high level.
    I think that your suggestion deserves a lot of careful consideration. A stadium somewhere between Newry and Dundalk could serve as a neutral venue for matches between Down and Armagh, Down v Monaghan or Cavan and, of course, Armagh v Monaghan or Cavan. It could serve as a neutral venue for matches between Meath or Dublin or Kildare v Derry or Tyrone or Donegal. Or even hurling matches Down v Westmeath, Derry v Wicklow or Kildare and, hopefully, Antrim v Kilkenny. It could also be used for Leinster championship matches – taking pressure off Croke Park. For matches attended by crowds of less than 40K, Croke Park has no atmosphere. It is far too big.
    The venue just south of Newry would be close to the Belfast to Dublin motorway and could also be served by the railway line. And matches could be held in a VAT free environment. We must escape from Clones. As I look back of the last 50 years, I seem to have spend about 10 of those years fuming in a traffic jam in Clones.
    Unfortunately, your suggestion has one dreadful flaw. It smacks of common sense and, in these times, a total lack of common sense is an essential requirement for leadership of the GAA at county level, provincial level or national level. The modern GAA is not an organisation, it is a disorganisation.

  • aber1991

    The GAA in Belfast does not need a stadium which can hold more than 10K. In 1961 the reigning All-Ireland champions Down met Derry in the Ulster semi-final. Derry were the only team in Ireland to have beaten Down in 1960 – the year Down had won their first All-Ireland title. In early 19961 Derry again beat Down – by 6 points in Casement Park. So the Ulster semi-final of 1961 was an attractive draw. The attendance at the match was 18K – in an era when the GAA did not have to cope with competition from televised sport.
    The GAA in Belfast needs clubs and an improvement to many of its existing clubs. Distracting its foot-soldiers with stewarding duties at a Casement super-stadium will mitigate against the expansion of the game at club level. Too much attention to the stable will damage the production of horses.
    Belfast has about the same number of GAA clubs as Fermanagh. Belfast has more Catholics than Fermanagh and Tyrone combined. Indeed, Belfast has nearly as many Catholics as counties Armagh, Fermanagh, Tyrone combined. Yet Belfast has about 20 GAA clubs while Fermanagh, Tyrone and Armagh together have about slightly more than 100 GAA clubs.
    The building of that stadium in Derry City has not led to the expansion of the GAA in that city. Celtic Park is a “foreign body” in the heart of the Bogside. A GAA stadium for County Derry properly belongs to rural County Derry – to such an extent the GAA has now built one at Owenbeg, just west of Dungiven.
    A sport is not promoted by the games people watch. It is promoted by the games people play.

  • John Gorman

    Yes all well and good except for the obvious point that this stadium is quite clearly going to be used like a mini Croke Park meaning it will be run as a working building with conference facilities, museum? and will host several concerts. The only place to do that is in a city ie Belfast. After all the messing around I believe the GAA should sell Casement and look elsewhere as the residents look like they will kick up a fuss everytime the stadium would be used.

  • John Gorman

    Yankee stadium cost a billion to construct that doesnt mean every new stadium will cost the same. Dont know about the Maze site but Im guessing a lot of that money was for a connection to the M1. Brightons new stadium (31000) was built on a new site recently and cost about 90 million.

  • Mister_Joe

    No; the proposed revised larger stadium wasn’t there.

  • John Gorman

    Plenty of GAA stadia in the middle of nowhere and struggle to sell out often also. The problem with the GAA is that they are trying to maintain large grounds for every county. Instead they need to just concentrate on a number of quality stadia that can be used by a number of counties for the bigger games making them viable and at county level the remaining stadia should be kept small and easy to maintain.

  • John Gorman

    All Ireland QF. Interantional rules, NFL other rugby matches etc. If its a quality stadium in a big city then it has options.

  • John Gorman

    Now Joe I think Zig is making a valid point that casement was built 60 odd years ago so most if not all the residents bought their houses next to the biggest GAA stadium in Northern Ireland so they should have been well aware that development at some point in the future was extremely likely. It has also been revealed that the GAA have offered compensation and even the market value of some properties. Do you think LFC will have the same problems with their new stand that towers over the height of Casement – doubt it.

  • Update And, after hearing those further submissions, Mr Justice Horner has, indeed, quashed the decision to grant planning approval for the redevelopment of Casement Park stadium. From the BBC report

    A GAA spokesman said the organisation was disappointed with the ruling but added that it will submit a new planning application next year.

  • Practically_Family

    You’d have some major local redevelopment to do at Newry as well so the costs wouldn’t be massively different.

    Without another source of funding or major investment from the GAA (Ha!)… It ain’t gonna happen anywhere but Casement.

  • Bryan Magee

    A reduced size, as a compromise option?

  • aber1991

    Yes, they GAA should sell Casement Park – for social housing. That should sicken the current residents of the locality.

  • Zig70

    Casement used to host ulster finals in the days when h&s was less of a priority and attendance would exceed the capacity. The finals were moved south and belfast lost out. Time to take stock and place the ulster focal point somewhere better. It would be good to have somewhere to host all-ireland replays and preliminaries that exceed 36k in Croke. Croke park is often well under capacity but nobody in the gaa would think it should be smaller on final day.

  • Mister_Joe

    I can’t imagine that the people, in their wildest dreams, would have anticipated that tens of millions of Pounds would be coming from Stormont to build a bigger stadium.

  • aber1991

    Yes, I have been fighting that battle for many years – without success. I thought that instead of upgrading Croke Park, the GAA should have built its HQ and main stadium at a greenfield site west of Dublin in an area with plenty of room for parking and few residents to bother it.

  • aber1991

    I seem to remember that the first Ulster senior football final in Casement Park was in 1961 when Down beat Armagh. I am not sure about that. I attended an Ulster Senior football final in the mid-sixties – in Casement when Cavan beat Down. Was it 1964? There was another in 1966 when Down beat Donegal.
    There might have been another in 1971 when Down beat Derry but I am not sure.