Windsor Park upgrade is handed planning permission

Work on the redevelopment of Windsor Park is set to begin in September after planning permission for the £29.2m project was granted on Wednesday.

Environment Minister Alex Attwood announced the go-ahead for the planned 18,000 all-seater upgrade of the South Belfast stadium.

The Irish FA formally submitted its planning application in December.

Windsor Park is being redeveloped in conjunction with the upgrades of Ravenhill and Casement Park stadiums.

The Irish FA submitted its planning application before Christmas following a consultation process.

People across Northern Ireland were given the opportunity to submit thoughts on the project after viewing the the planning application.

The design team, led by RPS Consulting Engineers, and the IFA then finalised the planning application before its submission.

The Northern Ireland Executive has endorsed up to £110m for regional stadium development across football, GAA and rugby.

This includes £25m government funding for the Windsor Park project which is scheduled to be completed by the summer of 2015.

Mr Attwood described it as a "tremendous boost for football and for sport".

"This ambitious, exciting project is important in sporting terms to everyone in Northern Ireland and will also create employment opportunities for local people, particularly during the construction process. This is why I made sure that we were in a position to turn it around quickly.

"My officials worked with the project team and key consultees for months before the application was submitted, clearing any hurdles. This ensured a quality application and therefore a speedy process," the minister added.

Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín described the planning approval as a key milestone in Northern Ireland's stadium redevelopment programme and said it was a good example of cross-departmental co-operation at Stormont.

She said: "The Irish FA are now able to move to the next stage of their ambition to create a modern stadium to cater for the needs of the whole football community.

"While the modernisation of Windsor Park represents a huge boost for football fans, this project and the others at Ravenhill and Casement are also about building community foundations and providing a catalyst for the regeneration of the areas around the stadiums, " Ms Ní Chuilín added.