Leitrim’s County Councillors have backed a proposal, in principal, for investing in the future development of Ireland West Airport Knock as part of a Local Authority regional partnership.
At Monday’s Council meeting, Joe Gilmore, Airport CEO, gave a special presentation outlining plans to drive tourism and economic development in the West of Ireland over the next 10 years.
At the moment the airport is owned by a Trust and held for the people of the region. It has shown consistent growth in passenger numbers achieving 700.000 passengers this year, but Mr Gilmore said they aim to increase this to 1.3m passengers by 2023.
For Co Leitrim, Ireland West Airport generates 26,000 bed nights annually with 11% of overseas visitors coming into the airport travelling to the county.
Mr Gilmore said that the Government commissioned a report on Airport growth options in 2013 and concluded that significant regional benefits would result from growing the airport business to a sustainable level over the next 10 years. The Report recommended that investment would also be required from regional authorities to make this growth possible.
Ireland West Airport Knock has now created a plan for growth which aims to double tourism spend and passenger numbers over the next 10 years.
While the majority of the money needed to finance this plan would come from exchequer sources, the remaining funding would have to sourced from regional stakeholders.
Mr Gilmore has approached seven Local Authorities including Co Leitrim, with a view to getting agreement in principal to help deliver on this plan.
“This (investment) would effectively form a regional partnership between (the airport) and the Local Authorities and they would have a stakehold in the airport,” he said.
The amount invested by each Local Authority would be determined by indicators such as the number of bed stays and the benefits the airport brings to the county. As such Co Leitrim would be one of the lower investors in the future plans for development if agreement is reached on investment.
Leitrim Council CEO, Frank Curran explained this would possibly be an investment in the form of a loan taken out of 30 years by the Council with a repayment in the region of €27,000 annually.
Leitrim’s councillors agreed to back the proposal in principal but stressed more needed to be done to improve transport links between the airport and the county as well as to promote Leitrim as a tourist destination.