City council granted planning permission for the new 4,800-seat stand that is to be built by private investor along with extensive retail development. Works should be done within two years.
The entirely private project was filed planning application for back in spring, but the approval was denied once and had to be filed again. On Thursday planners gave it the long-expected go-ahead.
The Akkeron Group development raised some controversy due to its large retail part with shops, 10-screen cinema, ice hall and hotel. Residents were reluctant to lose their green areas, while shop owners in the centre feared that customers would switch to the new area.
However, the city planners finally decided to approve the project, part of which is the new 4,800-seat south stand, which is to finally fill all corners of Home Park.
The planners’ report said that as the site is out of centre, the issue of the potential impact the retail element of the scheme could have on the city centre was an "important consideration". But it said that the A1 retail floor space at the site would not represent "a significant adverse impact on the city centre … nor will they unacceptable adverse impact on the vitality and viability of the city centre". However, it recommended that restrictions be put the retail units limiting them to the sale of sports and leisure goods.
On the design of the scheme, the report said that it was "considered that the proposed development will deliver a significant and impressive composition of high quality buildings that contribute positively to the character and appearance of the area and local visual amenity".
Recommending the plans for approval, the report said that the development would have "significant physical, social and economic benefits that would have both a local and city wide impact. The proposed development will help contribute towards the regeneration of Central Park and includes improvements and enhancements to the wider park".
Overall the project is to cost some £50 million (€60m / $80m) and construction should last two years. Groundbreaking was expected in September when plans were initially announced, but as the planning application was denied in the first run, it is now expected that construction start will also be delayed.