The Ireland West Airport Knock Local Area Plan 2012 to 2018 was given the go ahead at a special meeting of Mayo County Council last Monday. The plan had been up for adoption at the normal July monthly meeting of the council, but was postponed so some amendments to the plan could be made, following consultations between the airport management, council management, and councillors.
The adoption of the plan with minor amendments was proposed by Fine Gael whip Cllr Joe Mellett. It was seconded by Fianna Fáil whip Cllr Micheál McNamara. In proposing the motion, Cllr Mellet said: “This is the most important piece of infrastructure in the region and we have to make sure the right thing is done for the future of the airport. This is about the future not just for east Mayo but the region as a whole.” Cllr McNamara seconding the plan said: “What has been proposed is for the good of regional development into the future. We have always supported that and will continue to so.” The plan was also welcomed by Sinn Féin, with local Cllr Gerry Murray saying “I welcome this plan and the amendments and the views of the board of the airport were taken on board which is very important when coming up with a plan like this. This plan can enhance our local towns and provides a sustainable blueprint for the future.”
While the three major parties in the chamber were in favour of the plan, the formal adoption of it was held up for some time. Cllr Frank Durcan proposed that somebody from the airport’s board should address the meeting. There were members of the airport board present in the chamber. This was seconded by Cllr Gerry Ginty, who said that while he was in favour of the plan, he would also like to hear from someone from the airport’s governing board.
Cllr Peter Flynn questioned the propriety of letting a third party who had made a submission on a plan address the council on that item. He told the meeting that he would not support that happening even if it was a big employer like Baxter, Coca Cola or Allergan. Seamus Granahan, who was filling in for county manager Peter Hynes, as Mr Hynes had absented himself from the meeting owing to a conflict of interest as he sits on the airport board, told the meeting it would potentially open up the council to allow anybody who made a submission on any plan in the future the right to address the council. However despite the concerns raised it emerged that the nobody from the airport wanted to address the meeting.
After the approval of the plan airport chairman Liam Scollan, speaking for the board of the airport, said: “We wish to thank the council members and officials who worked hard to put the plan together, especially the four members from Swinford, councillors Eugene Lavin, Gerry Murray, Jimmy Maloney and Joe Mellett. We believe the plan provides a new opportunity not just for Mayo but for the whole of the west, northwest, and midlands regions of Ireland, to attract jobs utilising the airport’s presence in the region.”
Mr Scollan continued: “This plan enables firms in business sectors such as technology, renewables, life sciences, engineering, media and arts to locate at the airport, alongside enterprises in aircraft related businesses such as maintenance, dis-assembly and parking. While the zone will have the capacity to house 5,000 employees it is more realistic to target the creation of 1,000 jobs in the medium term. The making of the local area plan is just the first step however. The achievement of jobs will require significant investment from Government and the creation of a Strategic Development Zone which would simplify and speed up the planning process to make it easier for inward investors to locate at the airport.”