Páirc Uí Chaoimh redevelopment plan under scrutiny

Eagle-Eye rather than Hawk-Eye will determine the fate of the GAA’s plan to carry out a €70m redevelopment of Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

Páirc Uí Chaoimh redevelopment plan under scrutiny

The plan has come under the scrutiny of An Bord Pleanála, which yesterday launched an oral hearing into it which could take up to three days to complete.

Bord Pleanála inspector Hugh Mannion heard Cork County Board put its case for the redevelopment of the stadium, which will include state-of-the-art playing and training facilities, performance assessment and rehab facilities, an all-weather pitch, restaurants, conference facilities and a museum.

The county board has sought a 10-year permission for the project, although the bulk of the building process should not take more than 30 months.

It’s expected that up to 400 people will be involved in the construction.

Capacity at the stadium, which was originally opened in 1976, will beincreased from 43,500 to 45,000.

The plan also involves eliminating the stadium’s tunnel and creating new access and exit points.

A ‘centre of excellence’ will include a full-size all-weather pitch, new gymnasium, dressing rooms, video, performance assessment and rehab facilities.

The all-weather pitch will be a key element of the centre of excellence and it will be used by senior and development squads. A viewing area with seating for 1,000 spectators will be built overlooking it.

Seamus Kelly, managing director of the GAA’s engineers Malachy Walsh & Partners, said a major redevelopment was needed “to continue to attract top-class games” and the county board would be unable to do that without modern-day facilities.

A major fixture or concert at Páirc Uí Chaoimh can generate an estimated €10m for the local economy, with the main beneficiaries being the hospitality sector.

Bryan Roe, representing the GAA’s architects Scott Tallon Walker, said the new stadium was designed to let in light and it made sense to keep its traditional home in Cork rather than look for an alternative site.

The GAA is appealing against some conditions laid down on it by Cork City Council which has granted it planning permission.

In addition, two objections have been made to An Bord Pleanála by local resident Richard Cronin and members of an organisation called Save Marina Park.

Mr Cronin, who lives near the stadium, said he couldn’t understand why the GAA needed 10-year planning permission to complete the project and was concerned about disruption during the construction phase.

He said Ballintemple was already under daily siege from traffic and on match days it was “a free for all” with motorists abandoning their cars wherever they chose.

Mr Cronin also raised concerns that the development could lead to increased flooding risks in the locality.

The Save the Marina Park group said they supported Mr Cronin’s concerns.

Observations have also been lodged with the planning appeals board by An Taisce and former Green Party senator Dan Boyle.

Reservations highlighted by the Ballintemple Area Residents’ Association (BARA) were withdrawn at the last minute.

The oral hearing was attended by some senior figures from the Cork County Board, including its chairman Bob Ryan and secretary Frank Murphy.

It is expected that a decision will be made by An Bord Pleanála before the end of this month.

All going well the GAA has indicated that it hopes to start construction next February.

Residents’ objections

Ballintemple Area Residents’ Association (BARA) withdrew their reservations about the redevelopment 24 hours before the oral hearing got under way yesterday in the Imperial Hotel.

Following extensive talks between the Cork County GAA Board and the residents, both parties agreed on a comprehensive memorandum of understanding.

A joint statement was issued which said that the memorandum “contains a set of proposals which identify new consultative structures between the parties going forward and address specific issues of concern to the residents”.

BARA chairman Patrick Mulley said residents were “very pleased with the outcome”.

He said both parties had expressed a genuine interest in being good neighbours to one another and the memorandum underpins that.

Cork County Board chairman Bob Ryan said the GAA had listened carefully to the residents’ concerns and “responded with innovative proposals on how these might be addressed”.

The oral hearing was told the GAA is committed to having a liaison group set up through the construction phase and it would consist of representatives of the county board, contractors, BARA, gardaí and Cork City Council. They will meet on a bimonthly basis.

Local residents will also be invited to interagency talks in advance of any major events which will be held in the stadium.

The county board has also signalled that it had given a commitment to local schools that they would have the use, free of charge, of one of the adjoining outdoor playing pitches which will be created as part of the stadium redevelopment.

Lighting crux

GAA representatives have described a condition attached to their planning permission by Cork City Council as “disproportionate, highly unfair and highly opportunistic”.

The condition, known as number 25(f), requires the Cork County Board to pay for new and upgraded lighting in an extended area around Páirc Uí Chaoimh, which GAA bosses say is over the top.

They also argued that as a voluntary, non-profit organisation they shouldn’t have to pay for such services.

The city council has asked the GAA to pay for public lighting on Monahan Road, Centre Park Road and the road which links the two — where Live at the Marquee is held.

In addition, the city council also wants them to pay for lighting along the Marina, as far up as the eastern side of the Atlantic Pond.

It’s estimated this would cost the county board approximately €750,000.

David Holland, the county board’s barrister, argued it was the city council’s responsibility to provide lighting as it got rates for such services from a number of industries along the Monahan and Centre Park Roads.

He also told Bord Pleanála inspector Hugh Mannion he believed condition 25(f) was invalid because the organisation he represents doesn’t make a profit and is therefore exempt from charges for such services under the planning laws.

Mr Holland said that despite this, the county board was willing to pay a contribution. While he didn’t say what that might be, he insisted that if Bord Pleanála wanted a contribution for lighting it should only be a proportion of what was being sought by Cork City Council.

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