Friday 23 March 2007

Plan for 'historic' stadium revamp finally kicks off

THE massive redevelopment of one of the country's most historic sporting grounds has been given the green light to begin this summer.

Despite fierce opposition from local residents, An Bord Pleanala last night said Lansdowne Road will be demolished to make way for a new €365m all-seater stadium.

In a unanimous decision, the board granted planning permission for a 50,000 capacity new home for the Irish rugby and soccer teams, subject to 23 conditions.

The board also overruled its own inspector - who recommended that permission be refused - because of the ground's "historical and long-established use" as a stadium and its close proximity to the city centre and public transport links, including the DART line.

The decision comes almost nine months after Dublin City Council granted planning permission for the redevelopment to go ahead and after an eight-day public hearing.

Work is expected to be completed by the end of 2009.

The main concession to the 33 resident groups which opposed the scheme is to refuse permission for an entrance through Havelock Square and O'Connell Gardens.

However, the board decided to create two new access points through Swan Lane off the Shelbourne Road and via the Dodder Walk. There is no restriction placed on the number of sporting events that can be held, but the stadium will only be allowed host three concerts per year which must end by 11pm.

Unusually, the board also ordered that the stadium pay €75,000 a year into a fund which will be used for community projects.

This condition is usually imposed for 'bad neighbour' projects such as waste facilities or quarries.

The decision can be appealed to the High Court, and residents will meet over the coming days to discuss their options.

The Lansdowne Road Stadium Development Company said it was "delighted" with the decision which was "recognition of the fact that we consulted widely on the project" and tried to address concerns.

Most of the complaints centred on the design of the stadium and its height - at 48.5 metres, it will be 15 metres taller than Croke Park.

Other objections related to the inclusion of conference facilities, additional traffic in the area and claims that property prices would fall.

But in deciding not to accept the inspector's recommendation to refuse permission, the Board was "not satisfied that a more suitable site for a stadium can currently be provided, having regard to considerations of transportation, access and of availability".

It also noted that it was an objective of the National Development Plan to provide funding for the redevelopment, and said its impact on homes in the area was not sufficient to warrant refusal.

UEFA has indicated it will host a European Cup final in the redeveloped stadium, and FAI CEO John Delaney last night described the decision as "one of the most significant developments ever for Irish football".

IRFU CEO Philip Browne added: "We believe that the go-ahead for the re-development of a state-of-the-art stadium is a fitting testimony to the game of rugby in Ireland and that it will also be a tremendous boost for Dublin City in terms of potential revenues emanating from the staging of major rugby and soccer events."

The GAA wished the FAI and IRFU "every success" in their project. When complete, the stadium will consist of a "continuous curvilinear-shaped stand", enclosing all four sides of the ground. The south, east and west stands will have four tiers of seating.

There will be 10,000 seats at premium level and a further 1,300 at box level.

Many of these will be sold in advance to help finance the overall project.

Paul Melia
Irish Indo'

No comments: