Wednesday, 31 May 2006
Question 13: To ask the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism the position on the redevelopment of Lansdowne Road as the new national stadium; if there are further delays arising either from the objections lodged to the planning application submitted to Dublin City Council or from the dispute between a rugby club (details supplied) and the IRFU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21015/06]
In January 2004, the Government agreed to provide funding of €191 million to the joint IRFU-FAI project for the redevelopment of Lansdowne Road stadium. In January 2006, the Lansdowne Road Stadium Development Company, LRSDC, the company charged with delivery of the project, submitted a planning application to Dublin City Council. Before doing so, the company engaged in an extensive period of consultations with local groups and has endeavoured to address to the maximum extent possible concerns expressed by these groups.
As would be expected in a project of this size and nature, a number of submissions were made to the planning authorities, including objections lodged by a number of local residents groups and individual residents. The planning authority has sought further information from the Lansdowne Road Stadium Development Company on a number of aspects of the proposed development.
The Lansdowne Road Stadium Development Company is preparing a comprehensive response to the request from Dublin City Council for further information and expects to submit its response this week. Officials of my Department have been briefed by the development company on the planning issues and I have been assured that every effort is being made to address all the issues raised to the fullest extent.
It is not possible to estimate the length of time that will be required to complete the planning process. Up to the present, the project has proceeded on schedule and I hope the planning process will not delay that schedule.
With regard to the dispute between the IRFU and the named rugby football club, this is a matter between the IRFU and the club in question. It is clear that ultimately the issues must be resolved by the parties directly involved and I do not intend to intervene in this matter. Discussions between these parties are still ongoing and I am confident that a solution will be found and the dispute will not delay the redevelopment of the stadium.
Recently I visited one the of the residents groups in respect of its objections to the proposal. I thank the Minister for information on liaising with the residents group with a view to overcoming its problems. Obviously it will not be possible to overcome the concerns of residents if the development proceeds because the stadium will overlook the houses and nothing can change that. Given that there are 150 objections, there is no doubt that, following the decision, the case will go to An Bord Pleanála. While the Minister said the project was on course, has an appeal to An Bord Pleanála been built into the timeframe for development? Is it possible this will go the legal route given the effect on some of the residents and that, instead of the timeframe falling into place, there could be a serious deterioration of the timeframe in a short period? While I am concerned to ensure the stadium is built, residents are genuinely concerned that their lifestyle will change. What was a cul-de-sac will be a main entrance to the stadium and the lifestyle of residents will be changed. Is the Minister confident the timeframe for the project will be adhered to?
I do not accept the lifestyle of residents will be changed as a result of the construction of a state-of-the-art 50,000 all-seater stadium at Lansdowne Road. It is the oldest rugby stadium in the world. Frankly, the alternative is worse. I have said previously that there would be a concrete jungle at Lansdowne Road if the stadium were not to go ahead. I would much prefer to have a stadium of the kind I have outlined than look into a concrete jungle of offices, apartments, commercial outlets and so on. In any event, one thing is certain: if the stadium does not get planning permission, alternatives will have to be looked at. Irrespective of what happens, it is unquestionable that Lansdowne Road will be developed for one reason or another.
I am confident we will build a stadium at Lansdowne Road. We have met every deadline to date. There are 151 submissions, 130 of which are objections with the other 21 submissions of support in one guise or another. The intention was to commence construction early in 2007. If all goes well with the planning process, that remains the objective. The construction period is 29 months. We are still on schedule and, until such time as we come off schedule, I will not pre-empt the worst.
In the event of not being on schedule, how far can the project proceed and still be sustainable for the IRFU and the FAI, in particular, given that the Minister said the Government is not prepared to give more than the €191 million already committed? If there are delays, and given increasing building costs, for how long will the costing of €390 million be sustainable?
The revised cost of the stadium is of the order of €365 million. The Government's commitment is €191 million. It is anticipated that construction will commence in 2007 and will be completed in 29 months. These are the timeframes originally envisaged. When the price was set down at the commencement and for the variation that occurred thereafter, following the redesign, inflationary factors were taken into account in the assessment.