One would have thought that last week’s sale of Weston Airport to Brian Conneely & Co Associates a Galway-based civil engineering firm for €3.5 million would have been viewed as a good news story for Lucan and its residents. However in the eyes of one local politician at least it appears it’s a negative development.
The airport has been under the control of Nama since the collapse of the Jim Mansfield group. The airport started out as Weston Aerodrome back in 1937 under Captain Darby Kennedy. From 1946; he operated commercial flights from Weston to the UK until the late 1950’s. Throughout the years Weston continued to operate as a flight school.
Weston also has its place in Irish film making; it was the base for the aerial combat scenes for the WWI film The Blue Max which starred George Preppard in 1965. It was used again in 1971 for the making of Von Richthofen and Brown also known as The Red Baron, a film directed by Roger Corman the film was struck by tragedy when on September 15, Charles Boddington, an experienced pilot who had also worked on both The Blue Max and Darling Lili, was killed when his SE-5 plane spun during a low-level manoeuvre over the airfield and crashed.
The airport was upgrade from a grass runway in the 80’s when a tarmac runway was laid. In 2001, Captain Darby Kennedy by then retired to Spain sold Weston, to Mr. Jim Mansfield, owner of the Citywest Complex for a reported €4.5 million. Under Mansfiled ownership he developed new hangers, a new control tower, and restaurant acquired more land and extended the runway, falling foul of both local residents and the planning authorities on a number of occasions and ending up in the High Court.
In the early 90’s a new exclusive estate Weston was granted planning permission to build close to the end of the runway at Weston. Subsequently the builder went bust and it took years for the estate to be finally completed. Some 10 years on the residents became concerned about the safety of low flying planes close to their homes and noise pollution something which it appears they overlooked when they first purchased their homes given that the airport has operated there since 1937. Residents mounted several campaigns to effectively have the airport shut down by attempting to reduce its number of landings and take offs. Another fool hardy and dangerous campaign involved flying kites at heights that could have endanger aircraft landing and residents on the ground.
This week a spokesman for Brian Conneely & Co Associates said this week that they were “delighted” with the purchase due to its “proud tradition in Irish aviation” and revealed that the company plans to develop Weston as an executive airport with a strong focus on aviation education courses and innovative aviation projects.
There is huge potential to develop Weston both a flight training centre and make Weston an executive jet base. This would potentially bring more jobs and money into the local economy.
Following the sale it would appear that local (FG) Councillor Lavelle is less than happy with the latest development quoted in the Lucan Gazette, he has warned that any surge in air traffic at the site would be “unwelcome”. He went on to say that “While I would welcome any innovative projects, they would have to be scrutinised, as any intensification of air traffic would be unwelcome by local residents on a number of grounds, such as noise and pollution.”
While I share some of the councillors concerns regarding noise and pollution, airport’s such as Weston operate in harmony alongside residential areas around the world under strict planning laws. An enterprise such a Weston can play a very important part in the overall developing of Lucan in creating employment for its residents. For Councillor to say that any increase in air traffic would be unwelcome, defies business logic. Brian Conneely & Co Associates paid 3.5 million for an aviation business in which they have seen potential to make a return on that investment by expanding.
The not in my back yard (NIMBY) brigade has never looked beyond what’s good for them and politicians are keen to secure locals with votes over business interest with none.
A way must be found to actively support the new owners of Weston to develop the business, creating more jobs in Lucan while at the same time ensure that health and safety of residents is not compromised in the process.