30/05/2006

Plans for Maze site to be unveiled

The blueprint for the development of the site of the former Maze prison, is to be unveiled later today.

It is understood that the new 360-acre plot, just outside of Lisburn, will feature the much anticipated 42,000 seater International sports stadium, which could be used to stage football matches during the 2012 Olympics, a 5,000-seat indoor arena, a rural excellence and equestrian zone, featuring an international exhibition centre and showgrounds and dozens of new homes.

However, it has been reported that Social Development Minister, David Hanson will call for the site to be a symbol of the progress since the days of the troubles.

The location of the stadium has raised concerns among politicians who have argued that it should be based in Belfast, however the government has said that if the stadium is not built on the Maze site, there is no alternative.

The proposed conflict transformation centre was critical to ensuring republican backing for the Maze plan and will see the preservation of the prison's hospital wing, where ten republicans, including Bobby Sands, died during the 1981 hunger strikes.

If the new stadium goes ahead, a new junction and link road will have to be built for traffic, and proposals for a rail link and park-and-ride system close to the stadium, will also have to be considered.

The Maze consultation panel, which includes representatives from all four main parties reached an agreement on how to put the site to good use early last year, and since then government planners have been working to fulfil the potential of the site.

If the new plans get the full support of the Maze consultation panel, then the new stadium is hoped to be opened by 2010.

(EF/SP)

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