The process of putting a master plan in place for the strategic development zone (SDZ ) at Ireland West Airport Knock (IWAK ) will take in the region of two years to complete, the elected members of Mayo County Council were told this week at their June monthly meeting which was held in Carancon Parish Centre. At the meeting the members voted to defer the making of a new local area plan for the airport following the announcement a fortnight ago of the SDZ designation being approved by the Cabinet.
There was an enthusiastic welcome for the SDZ designation from politicians of all colours in the council, with Fianna Fáil councillor John Caulfield saying: "We have waited for years to get this. I would like to thank all that worked towards this, it's not a cheque for jobs, but it is a step in the right direction." Sinn Féin councillor Gerry Murray said: "I would like to welcome it, we have been waiting for a long, long, time but I would be mindful that there is a very serious infrastructural deficit at the airport, we welcome the SDZ, but we need a major fiscal investment and unless that comes the SDZ can't do what it is supposed to do. Things like roads, sanitation, broadband are needed."
Fine Gael council whip, Cllr Jarlath Munnelly said to the meeting: "I want to acknowledge that in 2007 it was proposed by former councillor Joe Mellett and passed by this local authority that an SDZ comes to the airport. It has taken a long time to get here." Fianna Fáil whip Damien Ryan added: "Anything that comes to the county is to be welcomed, it is a good news story and is part of what is needed up there. It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge An Taoiseach Enda Kenny's role in this. The airport is the most critical piece of infrastructure for the whole Connacht and Ulster region, the infrastructure deficit up there has to be addressed and without delay, that is the way this region will prosper and grow."
Outlining the process for the making of the master plan chief executive of Mayo County Council, Peter Hynes, told the meeting: "It would be remiss not to thank Enda Kenny TD for his support for this, it has taken maybe four years to get this across the line. There are not many SDZs in the country, maybe a handful of them. It is a step in the right direction. There is a two year process to get the master plan made, to go through the consultation that is required as it should be, all of the assessments and the infrastructure deficits that have been highlighted by the councillors will be part of that study as we make the plan and the process will be finally approved by An Bord Pleanala. We will have this item on the agenda very shortly, we will have Iain Douglas (senior planner, Mayo County Council ) to do a presentation on the process so it's all out there. We have done a lot of work in the region and just because we don't have the master plan in place yet, does not mean we are not open for business, we are open for business to discuss investment opportunities, and it will be a lot easier when the master plan is in place."