Planning permission has been granted for the redevelopment of Belfast’s Casement Park, with work on a new 34,578-seat Gaelic sports stadium set to begin in the first half of 2022.

The new stadium, which is expected to take two to three years to build, will include a bowl design and a range of mixed-use facilities. The design has been developed by architecture firm Populous.

The revamped Casement Park will become Belfast’s biggest stadium. Planning permission has been granted this week after Northern Ireland’s Infrastructure Minister, Nichola Mallon, recommended the project for approval in October. The project is expected to cost at least £110m (€129m/$153m), having originally been estimated to cost £77.5m.

Casement Park has been closed since 2013 and development plans had awaited planning permission seven years after the last match was staged there, and after a fresh application was made in February 2017. The project was first proposed in 2012, but has since stalled due to legal challenges from local residents and concerns over safety. An original vision for a 38,000-seat venue was overturned by a court after it was challenged by residents.

Tom Daly, chairperson of the Casement Park Stadium Development Project Board, said that the announcement of planning permission is a “momentous” milestone for the Gaels of Antrim, Ulster and Ireland.

The project is a commitment within the NI Executive’s New Decade New Approach agreement and is the last remaining element of the Department for the Communities Regional Stadia Programme. The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) had hoped the redevelopment would commence last year but the COVID-19 pandemic forced the plans to be put on hold.

Daly said: “Casement Park is a now a live catalyst for the development of Gaelic games and it will not only host some of the largest, most significant and exciting sporting occasions on this island, but it will also be a venue that GAA clubs, schools and community organisations will access and use.

“With a strong community focus, the project will create employment opportunities, increase footfall, support local business eco systems and supply chains and it will significantly add to the vibrant cultural and arts heritage that exists in West Belfast and across the city. The combined impact of the construction phase of the project and its operations when complete, will leave a lasting sporting, economic, health and cultural legacy for many generations to come.”

Brian McEvoy, chief executive of Ulster GAA, added: “With planning permission granted we are now looking forward confidently to the construction phase with a clear pathway for the project’s delivery.

“The project team is working with the Department for Communities to finalise all remaining aspects of the business case and we will be launching an extensive, far-reaching, and inclusive community engagement programme in the coming weeks to help realise the significant opportunities that the stadium will deliver for the whole community. Ulster GAA is committed to working very hard to be a good neighbour to everyone.”

Image: Ulster GAA/Populous