Cabinet Office PAR is a total vindication of GAA approach to Casement Park safety
Statement from Ulster GAA
Ulster GAA has welcomed the independent Project Assessment Review (PAR) undertaken by the Cabinet Office.
The report clearly finds that a Regional Stadium can be developed on the Casement site to meet Ulster GAA’s strategic Provincial need. Specifically the report highlights; “Despite these challenges at project and programme level, we believe that meeting the goal of successfully constructing and operating a strategic regional stadium at Casement Park is still achievable ”.
This is a welcome and important development as we progress with the Casement Park Stadium project. The delivery of the Casement Park project involves a complex set of relationships with various statutory organisations including the Safety Technical Group. The GAA strongly welcomes the recommendation for new Terms of Reference to be agreed and implemented to govern the operation of the Safety Technical Group alongside the appointment of a new independent Chair. These developments are in response to the reports findings that there were significant issues with the operation and administration of the current STG and with their assessment and interpretation of the safety requirements of the proposed Casement Park project.
The PAR report is a clear vindication of the premium which the GAA attached to the development of a new safe stadium on the Casement Park site. It is also supports the interpretation of both the Red and Green guides in terms of emergency exiting, as advanced by the GAA’s project personnel and our world class stadium design team.
The report also makes recommendations for the project which the GAA will address alongside the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure. The GAA remains resolutely committed to the development of a new GAA Provincial Stadium at Casement Park in order to host major games including national GAA fixtures, Ulster GAA Finals and Semi Finals. We will continue to progress the project and we look forward to announcing our next steps in the near future.
The report findings support the long held position of the GAA design team on the following issues:
Unavailability of Exits
“The Red Guide requirement for dealing with the scenarios are discounted are harder to establish. The topic is treated in two ways in the Red Guide. A specific on discounting exits states:
There are no hard and fast rules as to whether or not an exit route should be discounted when calculating the emergency exit capacity of a sports ground or section of the ground. Each case needs to be determined in light of the local circumstances, taking into account the importance of a particular exit from an area of spectator accommodation and an assessment of the level of fire risk present.
If the fire risk assessment determines that there is a need to discount an exit, the exit will be discounted should be the widest one serving area. If the fire risk is minimal and all elements of the exit system suitable protected from the effects of fire. It may be unreasonable to discount an exit.”
“We (The PAR Team) heard no suggestion from any stakeholders that any of exits in the Casement Park design would need to be routinely discounted in this way before any emergency exiting calculation takes place ”.
This position (The STG assessment) which dates from October 2013 seems to recognise that emergency exiting under a contingency plan scenario would not be constrained by the eight minute target for normal emergency exiting and this matches our reading of the Red Guide. We (The PAR Team) cannot find support in the Red Guide for Sport NI’s view presented to the CAL Committee that even under a contingency plan scenario evacuation from viewing areas to a place of comparative safety has to take place within eight minutes. The definition of emergency evacuation capacity at Red Guide 1.3 (d)12 has no reference to discounting exits when calculating capacity” .
Phased evacuation and use of the pitch
“The main benefit of using the pitch would be to prevent a crowd build up on the concourses by holding some spectators on the pitch for a period of time. Use of the pitch therefore implies a phased evacuation and a management plan would be needed to explain how these arrangements would be successfully stewarded. Both the design team and our independent technical advisors confirmed that phased evacuation is planned and used in GB stadia. ”
“The Sport NI view was that although the pitch could be used, this was only as part of a free flowing existing system operation at the appropriate Red Guide or Green Guide flow rates, e.g. not as a holding area. We (The PAR Team) did not find support for this view in the Red Guide. The Guide describes the pitch as being “available as a place of comparative safety ”