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Councillor says Knock Airport area plan worthless without investment


Anton McNulty

THE new extended Knock airport area plan will not be worth the paper it is written on without the capital investment to attract industry and jobs according to a Mayo councillor.
Mayo county councillors are today expected to ratify a recommendation by the Chief Executive, Peter Hynes, to extend the current Ireland West Airport Knock Local Area Plan by five years following the expiration of the current plan in 2018.
The current Local Area Plan (LAP) 2012-2018 was adopted by Mayo County Council in a response to a Department of Environment suggestion after the council had applied for the lands around the airport to be given Strategic Development Zone (SDZ) status.
The land has yet to be given SDZ status and the only developments at the airport since the LAP was adopted have been minor.
Charlestown-based councillor Gerry Murray said the airport needs significant capital investment and without this, local area plans will not make any difference.
“There is major capital investment needed at the airport and would need investment in the figure of €80/90 million, which we are unlikely to get. A local area plan is not worth the paper it is written on without the money on the table. We can have a SDZ on paper but without the infrastructure in place and an adequate business park nothing will happen,” the Sinn Féin councillor said.

International gateway
In his report to the councillors, Chief Executive, Peter Hynes said that the primary aims of the LAP was to enable the development of the airport as a strategically important international gateway to the region and to enable the full development potential as a strategic economic/enterprise hub.
Mr Hynes admitted that there has been limited level of planning activity within the area of the plan and it’s objectives have not been secured.
“Substantial development has not proceeded to date in relation to the core policies and objectives which underpin the Local Area Plan strategy and framework in relation to, inter-alia, strategic development (SDZ designation), the land-use strategy and economic development. Accordingly the objectives of the Local Area Plan have not been substantially secured,” he wrote in his report.  
Last week, Paddy McGuinness stepped down as the Chairman of the Western Development Commission citing the lack of government commitment as among the reasons. Cllr Murray said that Mr McGuinness’s resignation showed the ‘total frustration’ in rural Ireland and everything delivered to rural areas had to be fought for.
“Paddy McGuinness alluded to it that we are great at producing papers but we can’t get the capital investment in place. There is a total frustration but that frustration has been going back 30 and 40 years,” he said.