Friday, 20th July 2018
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Future of Waterford Airport

"In REAL jeopardy!” - Cllr. Eddie Mulligan

Last week national media reports have stated that Department of Transport officials, have, internally, warned Minister Shane Ross that the future of Waterford Airport is in severe jeopardy.

Locally, Cllr Eddie Mulligan has been openly disturbed by the continued lack of future proofing for Waterford Airport. He goes on to state, "The omission of Waterford Airport in the first draft of the National Planning Framework (NPF) was unforgivable. Having made two submissions that included the case for infrastructural investment in the airport. I was relieved to see an endorsement for continued Exchequer funds, for our smaller regional airports, delivered under the Regional Airports Programme. Which, thankfully, included Waterford Airport. However, I did warn at the time about how specifics and priorities were omitted, that the NPF had failed to underwrite the necessity to prioritise the development of our regional Airport.

We have to ask our own Minister. "Is the possible withdrawal of Government funding to the detriment of the future viability of Waterford Airport?” and "Why he allowed the NPF to contain so much non-committal, wishy-washy language?”

Cllr Mulligan goes on to state, "In my opinion, these are blatant, biased omissions. Undertaken whilst our Government Junior Minister and TDs had their eye off the ball in relation to Waterford’s key economic interests, when the main NDP document was drafted. I just hope that these glaring blunders, which would have helped endorse future investment don’t come back to haunt us.”

The internal submission advised approval from Minister Ross for €375,000 to "safeguard the Coast Guard search and rescue for the first six months of 2018”. It also recommended "while also allowing time for a full evaluation of the future of the airport”. Cllr Mulligan believes that the economic argument for infrastructural investment, necessary to make the airport viable, is being disregarded and ignored.

"Future funding for Waterford Airport has been in question for many months now. Is it not now time for Minister Halligan, who is after all an Independent Alliance member with the Minister Ross, to stand up and fight for the necessary investment? The future of our regional airport is regarded as a priority by all local authorities across the South East.

According to Cllr Mulligan, the internal briefing noted that "all other projects approved in 2016 are 'frozen’ until the future position regarding air scheduled services is clarified and none of these projects can be commenced until that time”.

Waterford airport has, for some time now, been highlighting the need to extend the runway by another 150m. Whilst the report focused on the fact that the airport recorded passenger numbers of only 13,511 in 2016, the last year commercial flights operated there. Mulligan believes that it suited senior officials and the Minister’s Department not quote or remember the fact that Waterford Airport served a very healthy 83,000 passengers per year, over the period 2003 - 2013. Even during this time period, it was being claimed that the extension of the runway was a necessary infrastructural investment, to facilitate use of the airport by larger jet propelled aircraft. These would give the airport an estimated capacity in the order of 300,000 to 500,000 passenger journeys per year, in addition to new cargo opportunities.

"An investment in Waterford Airport has to be seen as an investment in the South East Region, as endorsed by the joint Kilkenny, Carlow, Wexford and Waterford Councils submission to the National Planning Framework. This has been conveniently forgotten by Minister Ross”, states Cllr Mulligan. Waterford City and County Council's own submission highlighted the necessity of International connectivity to facilitate tourism and economic growth in the Region. In the Cllr’s own submission, he highlighted how, in the aftermath of Brexit, a viable route to London was a requirement, with the South East having the potential to be the future Gateway to Europe.

"Waterford City has excellent infrastructure, in terms of roads, a deepwater port, water, wastewater, sewage and broadband. However, the lack of International connections through Waterford Airport is a challenge. A challenge that restricts our International development of the airport and the Region.

The planned proposed doubling of the population of Waterford City and the County, over the next twenty two years, will require increased International movement of our citizens. An airport of consequence is needed and we need invested in now. The sustainability of the airport is fundamentally linked to a runway extension. It is now time for our Government Junior Minister to listen to the Councils of the South East. Take his Independent Alliance colleague Minister Shane Ross head on and spell out the Government’s obligation for investment in Waterford Airport as a Gateway to Europe.

Minister Halligan needs to stop playing with drones and start guaranteeing the return of real commercial aeroplanes to Waterford Airport!”

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