THE Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Eoghan Murphy TD has written to Transport Minister Shane Ross to add his support to the airport’s submission for exchequer funding to extend its runway.
In the letter, dated April 2, Minister Murphy, whose remit also includes the National Planning Framework (NPF), said that in the context of the NPF, “Waterford, as one of Ireland’s five cities, is highlighted as strategically important.”
“Waterford is also one of four regional cities with ambitious targeted future growth of at least 50% by 2040,” Minister Murphy said. “The regional cities are a key counterbalance to Dublin to help ensure more balanced regional growth and development in the future.”
Minister Murphy said that the expansion of Waterford “as an accessible, regional centre of scale, based on employment and population-led growth, will have a wider positive regional impact throughout the South East of Ireland, which has a population of some 510,000 people.”
“The region, while having good road links to Dublin, is less well linked to the other cities and is presently not served by any direct scheduled air services,” Minister Murphy said. “Importantly, Waterford is by some measure, the city farthest away from any of Ireland’s three State airports with significant international connectivity. There are clear links between access to an airport with international services and regional development in terms of economic investment, employment and tourism.”
Minister Murphy said that extending the runway at Waterford Airport “could make sense from the regional development perspective”. However, he added that that would be “subject to the necessary technical and commercial viability, business planning and ongoing ownership and operational arrangements”.
This is particularly relevant when you take the Ernst & Young economic report, which was undertaken in response to the airport’s funding and is understood to be less than complimentary of Waterford and the wider South East region.
Minister Murphy concluded the letter by saying that “it would appear from all of the foregoing, that there is a strong case made by local stakeholders as to the potential spatial and economic benefits of the project”.
“If realised, the benefits would clearly contribute towards the achievement of the NPF objectives for Waterford as an important city and the South Eastern region more generally,” Minister Murphy said.
Prof Ray Griffin of WIT, co-author of a SENSER (South East Network for Social Economic Research” report on the airport’s viability told the Waterford News & Star that he is somewhat cynical of the letter’s contents.
“This is the type of placeholder letter that shows a Government doing nothing but writing carefully crafted non-committal letters to each other,” Prof Griffin said. “The airport is a promise made in the 2016 Programme for Government, one of the very, very few promises made to this region and three years later all we have to show for any of those promises is a bunch of carefully crafted letters. The text of this letter is richly reminiscent of the letters we have seen flying over the 24/7 cardiac service and the North Quays. Action rather than words are needed for this region to thrive.”