The redevelopment of the Brandywell stadium is facing a complex planning hitch because of the extra powers granted to the new Derry City and Strabane District Council.
The original planning application for the redevelopment of the Brandywell was submitted in September by Derry City Council but now faces the prospect of potential or perceived conflicts of interest, according to the Environment Minister.
That is because, due to the extra powers being granted to the 11 new super-councils taking over from the old 26-council system next month, planning applications will be considered and finalised by councils.
In the case of the Brandywell redevelopment, the prospect of a potential or perceived conflict of interest comes arises because the planning application was submitted by a council and will be decided by a council.
The Environment Minister Mark H Durkan, a fan of Derry City FC, explained: “Given that planning powers are to be transferred to councils in a few weeks, on 1 April, most applications will be considered and finalised by councils. However, in this instance, as the applicant is a council — many instances of such applications will arise over the coming months and years — careful consideration will have to be given as to how such applications are processed, so as to address any issues of potential or perceived conflicts of interest.”
He was speaking at Stormont after being asked for an update on the Brandywell redevelopment by fellow SDLP Foyle MLA Colum Eastwood.
Mr Durkan said: “The planning application for the redevelopment of the Brandywell stadium and Showgrounds was submitted on 12 September 2014. The proposal comprises the demolition of the existing terraces and stand along the Lone Moor Road and their replacement with a new 2,400-seated stand. The development also provides for the relocation of the existing dog track within the site. My officials have met the agent to progress the application.
“However, some further details are required on a number of issues, including contamination, drainage and boundaries. A consultation response is also pending from the environmental health department of Derry City Council.”
Mr Eastwood then followed up with another query: “I am glad to hear that the application is progressing. Can he give us an idea of when it will be finalised and when we will see the long-overdue redevelopment of the stadium?”
The Minister replied: “My officials are fully engaged and fully committed to pursuing the scheme to a positive conclusion. Meetings and discussions have already taken place.”