Belfast Telegraph

Airport overhaul 'exciting' venture

A masterplan to overhaul struggling Shannon Airport will herald a new era for the west of Ireland, it has been claimed.

The Government has rubber-stamped proposals to set up a publicly-owned company that will run the airport independently of Dublin and Cork airports.

Many traders in the region believe the stand-alone organisation, which will be debt-free and expected to fund itself, can help reverse declining passenger numbers.

But airliner Ryanair said the decision not to sell off Shannon to private investors was a missed opportunity to create real competition between the country's airports.

Under the plans, Shannon Development, the body charged with creating investment into the region, will be abolished and many of its responsibilities will pass to State agencies the IDA, Enterprise Ireland and Failte Ireland.

The new semi-state company set up to run the airport will also take over lands owned by Shannon Development, which will be used to redevelop the area. There will be opportunities for private investors and operators, with possible tax opportunities yet to be decided.

One of the proposals to be explored in a feasibility study is an international aviation centre of excellence.

Transport minister Leo Varadkar said the decision would help secure the future of Shannon Airport, where passenger numbers have more than halved from over 3.6 million to 1.6 million over the past five years.

"We want to recapture the pioneering spirit of the people who gave us the airport and the Shannon Free Zone concept, so that we can provide exciting and innovative opportunities which benefit business, tourism and job creation in the region and across the country," he said.

A steering committee is to be set up in the coming weeks to start drawing up the new masterplan.

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