West Belfast residents group clear first stage in High Court challenge to Casement Park

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An artist's impression of how the new stadium could look once completed.

A residents group has cleared the first stage in its High Court challenge to a planned new GAA stadium in the heart of west Belfast.

The Mooreland and Owenvarragh Residents Association (MORA) was granted leave to seek a judicial review of the decision to approve the redevelopment of Casement Park.

A judge listed the challenge for a full hearing over three days in March next year.

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon gave planning permission for a 34,000 capacity arena in July.

But some of those living in the surrounding area are opposed to the scale of the estimated £110m project.

Concerns have been raised that the height of the stadium, traffic, parking and noise could cause significant harm to the neighbourhood.

In 2014, MORA won a legal battle to quash a previous decision to build a bigger, 38,000 seat venue on the site.

Lawyers for the group are now mounting a new bid to stop the revised plans.

In court today the Department for Infrastructure and the Executive Office did not oppose the case advancing to a full hearing.

Counsel for the GAA, appearing as notice party and beneficiary of the planning decision, said he was currently "constrained" in the submissions he could make.

A protective order has also been agreed to ensure neither side is left with a crippling legal bill if it ultimately loses the legal battle.

The terms involve capping MORA's potential exposure to costs at £10,000, with the figure set at £35,000 for the Department.

Mr Justice Humphreys confirmed: "In light of the concessions made by the respondent, I'm granting leave on all the grounds.

"That gives permission to the residents association to pursue their claim for judicial review of the planning decision on all of the basis outlined by their legal team."

He adjourned the issue of interim relief to prevent any development at the stadium until the legal proceedings are completed.

The judge pointed out: "In the absence of a tender process and contracts being signed, no work is going to commence in the immediate future."