17 March 2006

Maze stadium plan is 'waste of public cash'

Belfast Telegraph

By Debra Douglas
17 March 2006

Belfast's SDLP Deputy Mayor last night branded plans to spend £85m on the proposed Maze stadium as a "waste of public money".

Speaking ahead of today's planned advertisements inviting expressions of interest from developers to deliver a multi-range sports stadium for the city in one of three suggested locations, the SDLP's Pat Convery said spending huge amounts of public money on a major stadium when people throughout the province are facing three-fold increases in their rates bill was unacceptable.

He said: "This is a separate proposal from the national stadium as we believe that Northern Ireland's capital city requires such a stadium regardless of whether or not the Maze project goes ahead. If the Government decides not to proceed with the Maze, we will be happy to work with them on this project.

"Our project would not be dependent on public funds. Our ratepayers are facing a 19% hike in rates from central government this year, a review of the rating system and water charges which is likely to see rates bills rise threefold in the next few years.

"The Government says it needs to increase this taxation to meet infrastructural and service needs, yet at the same time seems able to find £85m to fund a sports stadium in an area where there is clearly no social need."

He said the council wanted to know where the money would come from and what other projects would suffer as a result.

"We believe the Government must produce a business case to show the viability of the Maze site," he added.

"The fact is all the evidence around the world shows that stadia should be built in major cities, such as the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Croke Park in Dublin and the new Wembley in London. Stadia outside of cities are not economically viable.

"There is a groundswell of opinion rising up against the Maze project. It is not too late for the Government to reconsider and join us in developing a stadium in the capital city and using the £85m it was going to spend on this project for more deserving and needy causes."

The council has potential sites for a 25,000 seater stadium at Ormeau Park, Maysfield or North Foreshore.

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