Minister of State John Halligan has committed to providing ‘every support’ he can when it comes to securing the future of Waterford Airport.
“There is no doubt that a runway extension is crucial if Waterford Airport is to be viable in the long-term and attract commercial jet aircraft and I welcome the proposal put forward by the board to the Department,” said Minister Halligan on Friday last.
“They have worked exceptionally hard to secure these private investors and develop their plan and I will be giving them every support I can to secure Waterford Airport’s future.”
Speaking to this newspaper, Minister Halligan added: “The business plan has been submitted to the Department of Transport for consideration and, arising from that, I organised a meeting between Minister (Shane) Ross, the investors and representatives of Waterford Airport to give them the opportunity to expand further on the proposal. It was a very positive meeting, in that it gave Minister Ross the opportunity to discuss the proposal in detail with the investors and airport representatives.
“Both the proposal and the follow-up information given to Minister Ross at that meeting have now been passed on to Ernst & Young for consideration in their review into Waterford Airport. Minister Ross hopes to receive this by the end of June.”
In relation to Waterford not qualifying for the latest round of capital grants under the Regional Airports Programme, Minister Halligan added: “It must be acknowledged that this is because the airport is not eligible for that funding under current criteria as it has not had a commercial flight since June 2016.
“The Department has in principle granted approval for capital investment projects of over €1 million at Waterford Airport. However, aside from around €18,000 granted in 2016 in respect of alterations to a building for an air traffic control test centre prior to VLM ceasing its Waterford services, this funding is frozen until a new carrier is found. And it should be noted that from 2007 to 2017, Waterford Airport received almost €20 million in operational and capital support under the Regional Airports Programme.”
Meanwhile, Minister Halligan has also re-iterated his support for Waterford Institute of Technology’s future role as the “primary hub” of the Technological University of the South East (TUSE).
He made the declaration following Government approval for the construction of the long-awaited 12,800 square metre Engineering, Computing and General Teaching building at WIT’s Cork Road campus.
This is expected to ffacilitate the relocation of the existing WIT Humanities Department and other activities from the College Street campus, which will be taken over by the relocated Waterford College of Further Education (WCFE).
The new building will include workshops, laboratories, classrooms, lecture theatres, research space, tutorial rooms, training rooms and administration offices and is expected to accommodate in the region of 1,467 places, 944 full-time students and 523 part-time students.
Said the Minister: “The design teams of architects and engineers will now bring the project through the initial design and planning process…While the details of this – such timelines and phasing – has to be finalised, WWETB and WIT have been working with officials at the Department of Education to ensure that at least some WWETB students will be able to move to their new premises as soon as possible.”