The sale of Weston airport is good for Lucan?

Weston Airport_tom Dowling 2sOne 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.

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Categories: Aviation, General Views

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5 replies

  1. I took lessons with Cpt Darby

  2. Great article Tom.

    Very interesting!

    I don’t see much good for the locality coming from this sale, despite what the buyers are saying via media sources. Seems to be nothing about the purchasing company online! Does the media project their alleged promises for Weston Airport correctly?

    Don’t know what such a company wants with an executive airport such as Weston other than for construction development on all those acres. I fear the beginning of the end of Weston Executive Airport is in sight.

    It was sold cheap! Any recent outcomes between NAMA and the disgraced construction industry beggars belief and carries a BEWARE tag and an adverse suspicion relative to our inglorious past in this sector in Ireland.

    • Hi Arthur,
      Thanks for reading my blog and your comments. A lot can be said about NAMA and its approach to the sale of repossessed property if it is actually getting the best price. However Weston Airport has been in limbo for a number of years and it’s fair to say potential buyers were not queuing up to purchase it. The actual number of people currently at Weston I’m not sure of but I would guess that directly and indirectly there could be in the region f 30 – 40 people, that is a significant number employed in the Lucan area. As the Ireland and the rest of Europe comes out of recession it’s fair to say that the aviation industry will to pardon the pun take off again. The potential for Weston even with its existing runway and the fact it’s less than 12km from the city centre to attract private business men on private jets travelling in and out of Ireland is huge.

      In terms of its development of Weston for more housing, it would be opposed at every turn by the local community. And besides there is currently planning permission granted for more than 10,000 new homes in the greater Lucan area at present and more lands already zoned for housing. It also galls me to hear local politicians announcing that any additional air traffic at Weston would be unwelcome (its votes before jobs) while seeking some lands to be given over for recreational purposes for the local community may be well intentioned. Where does the funding come to develop such schemes? We already have to fantastic public amenities in the greater Lucan Griffeen Valley Park and Lucan Demesne the latter which does not even have a playground. What have politicians done to secure facilities on lands within their control? I would also ask what have local politician done in recent years to secure the land at Liffey Valley which have been under threat all through the Celtic tiger years and are still at risk to development?

      It’s time for a new thinking on how communities develop, job creation is a vital part for residents of any area. Residents and politicians alike must come to the understanding that for any community to prosper it must develop jobs within its own area; reduce the amount of time its residents spend stuck in traffic each day away from their families.

      Weston airport should be seen as an asset to the area and locals and politicians must find a way to work with the new owner to ensure the community gets the maximum return and input from a developing airport creating employment for future generations of Lucan residents.

      There are the bigger issues that the media should be covering about our community develops – not a negative headline from a local politician, Lucan says No!

      • Thank you Tom,

        My adverse suspicions got the better of me! I will never trust a self interested politician or political party again. As for crony developers… least said. I think the new buyer has deep political roots though on the FF side!

        You put a better picture on it for me in any event, which I readily accept.

        We certainly want to see Weston develop into a major executive Jet Port with all of the peripheral employment it should bring with it.

        I’m delighted to see that a new restaurant is presently being set up in the vacated Blue Max Bistro. It’s a lovely place to go for a meal, though I don’t think full restaurant facilities are yet available.

        Enjoy your blog. Keep up the good work.

        Regards.

  3. And (tangential to your topic, I know – sorry), I was in a crowd scene in The Blue Max, shot in Winetavern Street. I seem to remember I got paid a fiver and was fed cake and stewed tea from the catering truck.

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