LAGAN Valley MLA Trevor Lunn has strongly criticised spending over £3 million to consultants for the Maze stadium project and then not going ahead. Mr Lunn spoke out after it was revealed the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure paid over £3.5m in consultancy fees for the project in the past three years. A proposal to built a stadium for soccer, Gaelic football and rugby at the site of the former prison site was -shelved earlier this year.
The DCAL minister at the time Gregory Campbell told department officials the cost estimated at between £156m and £193m would not be compensated by the social and economic benefits.
He instead proposed to give money to each of the governing bodies to redevelop their own facilities.
However, his predecessor and party colleague Edwin Poots and the direct rule administration before him were broadly in favour of a multi sports stadium at the Maze and work had started on the development.
The biggest fee was to engineering and planning consultants Mott MacDonald. As well as £2,417,634 for design costs in 2007-8, the firm were also paid £726,566 for business planning costs a year earlier.
A spokesman for the company said they drew up plans which were comprehensive enough to go forward for planning permission once an environmental impact assessment had been completed.
The other consultancy costs incurred by the department include £181,302 to KPMG/Davis Langdon for programme management and £17,943 to the same company for a purpose not revealed.
Management consultants Price Waterhouse Coopers were paid £196, 935 for business planning work, while the same company received £1,491 for its employees to brief the minister on the work it had carried out.
Belfast advertising firm Fire IMC was paid more than £10,000 for advice on the naming rights for the stadium.
An official behind the plan to regenerate the Maze site has also said thousands of jobs could be created by the development.
A corporation is to be established to review what to do with the 360 acres of land.
Alan Maitland, head of regeneration at OFMDFM, told his department's Stormont scrutiny committee: "Because this is such a huge site there are thousands of potential jobs and if the corporation can come up with the right mix of ideas and it can be a beacon for investment then who knows what the prospects can be.
"Even though this is a huge site the corporation must focus on how it impacts on the whole community. "Before we see what investment is made we will want to know that we will be getting a return both to the economy and to the good of the society for that significant expenditure and employment will be a key feature in that." Mr Lunn said that not proceeding with the project was a massive and costly missed opportunity.
For that level of money and that amount of specialist advice, which aspect of that advice caused the Minister to abandon the project? I believe none at all. "This project was viable and the reasons for termination have more to do with DUP inability to accept a conflict transformation centre than any cost consideration or other potential problem."