Serious questions on community benefit around upgrade of stadiums – Bradshaw

Alliance South Belfast MLA Paula Bradshaw has expressed frustration local community benefits promised as part of the Windsor Park upgrade never materialised, saying it does not bode well for the Casement Park project.

In preparation for the submission of bids for the contract to upgrade the South Belfast stadium, each bidder consulted with groups in the Village area to identify ‘legacy projects’ they could deliver under the category of ‘community benefit’.

However, in a written answer to Ms Bradshaw from the Communities Minister, it has been revealed almost none of the suggested projects were delivered in the locality of the stadium.

“The stadium upgrade itself has been a tremendous success, but local people have been left bewildered by the lack of evident local community benefit now arising from it,” she said.

“The list the Communities Minister provided me consists of scant projects, ranging from site visits to video participation, the vast majority of which accrued well away from the vicinity of the stadium itself, in some cases as far away as East Antrim or Newry.

“There have been some benefits to local, short-term employment, but these have been nothing like as wide-ranging as expected. Out of a £35 million contract, the local people have only directly benefitted from a hanging baskets and vegetable patch educational event, which was not even widely promoted in advance to the local groups.

“Given the objections from residents close to Casement Park around the project there, this does not bode well for the future. People can quite reasonably expect the community benefit element of any such project to apply locally and substantially, given the project causes some potential aggravation to residents and businesses.

“If the Casement Park upgrade is to succeed, a re-assessment is needed to ensure the community benefit arising from it applies locally and on a cross-community basis, including areas which should have gained from the Windsor Park development.”

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