The Stormont Executive in Northern Ireland will reportedly have to agree a new budget for the long-awaited Casement Park stadium rebuild after it emerged that about £18m originally earmarked for the development had been reallocated to other projects.
The £18m accounted for all but £2m of the budget set aside for the 35,500-capacity West Belfast stadium project this year, according to Belfast Telegraph’s Sunday Life newspaper. The estimated cost of the development has ballooned from £77.5m to more than £110m.
The project was finally given the go-ahead by Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon of the SDLP party last month, although she has insisted that funding for the development had nothing to do with her granting final planning permission.
However, the Executive’s Finance Minister, Conor Murphy of Sinn Fein, said: “The £18m was reallocated to other projects – it was not returned to the Treasury.”
Former Ulster Unionist leader and Chair of the Stormont Assembly’s Finance Committee, Steve Aiken, said: “The reason the money went back is to do with planning issues.”
The venue has been closed since 2013, with the first planning application for redevelopment having been submitted in 2017.
Mallon said that the long-awaited development, which has been scaled back after local opposition to the initial 38,000-capacity design, will help to revitalise the area.
“The new stadium is of a high-quality design and will become a renowned landmark building which will provide a further catalyst for regeneration of the Andersonstown Road,” she said.
It is hoped that building work will begin in the first half of 2022, with the project taking between two and three years. The stadium will feature a bowl design and a range of mixed-use facilities, having been designed by architecture firm Populous.
Image: Ulster GAA/Populous