By Damian Dolan
Highways England’s plans for a relief road off junction six of the M42 near Birmingham will ruin the heart of Warwickshire GAA’s Páirc na hÉireann, the local county board has warned.
Warwickshire says it has been badly let down by Highways England which has gone back on a commitment to compensate the local GAA with a new facility.
Highways England says it is still working to find a solution.
Warks secretary Michael Collins said the u-turn and broken promise hit the county like a “bombshell”.
Last year, Highways England announced plans to build a relief road to run through one of the three pitches at the home of GAA in the West Midlands, Páirc na hÉireann in Solihull.
A new site nearby for a state-of-the-art facility for Warwickshire GAA, complete with clubhouse and three pitches, was offered by Highways England in return.
Warwickshire county board chairperson Mark McLoughlin spoke of his delight.
But, says Mr Collins, Highways England has now taken that offer off the table and under new plans Warwickshire GAA will remain at Páirc na hÉireann.
The path of the relief road will remain unchanged as will the existing clubhouse and the main pitch.
In its revised plan Highways England put forward three new proposals for the new location of pitch two, with pitch three also to be moved.
Mr Collins called the proposal “unacceptable”.
Mr Collins told the Irish World that the only information the county board received from Highways England about its “complete u-turn” was that the purchase of a new site for Warwickshire GAA “stretched the boundaries of compulsory purchase”.
“It’s a bombshell; at no point over the last 18 months have they (Highways England) indicated that there was a problem acquiring these fields,” he said.
“We were looking forward to a new home for Warwickshire and the GAA in Britain. We feel that their proposals would leave us in a worse state than we are now, which is unacceptable.”
The Warwickshire county board and the trustees of Páirc na hÉireann learnt of the decision at a recent meeting with Highways England.
The three proposals would see pitch two relocated nearer to pitch three, or at the back of the clubhouse on the site of an old tip, or on the other side of the clubhouse.
Mr Collins added: “The proposals mean the pitches (two and three) are further away from the clubhouse. It will be a huge walk. We don’t think that’s suitable.
“You’ll be next to a major A road [the relief road] and we will lose the tranquilly of the ground which we have at the moment. And all the noise and fumes that comes with that.
“People can let their kids run around out there now because it’s an enclosed tranquil environment.
“During the build we could be down to two pitches, or maybe even one.
“We’ve also been given no indication about access….and they also haven’t addressed car parking.
“We were happy with the original relocation.”
The whole project has now gone out to public consultation for a second time, detailing the proposed three new options for Páirc na hÉireann.
Mr Collins confirmed that the Warwickshire county board’s objection to the relief road and to the project as a whole still stands.
There is also a concern that the proposed location of the second pitch could be met with an objection from a neighbouring property.
A Highways England spokesperson said: “We remain committed to working with Warwickshire Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) site, Pairc na hEireann. Highways England has been in discussion with GAA since early 2017 and we have held several meetings with the GAA trustees to keep them updated on progress.
“We will continue this process and remain hopeful a solution will be identified that suits all parties directly affected by this scheme.”