From Castlebar - County Mayo -

Local Papers Commentary
Western People 14 Jan 2004
By The Jaundiced Eye
17, Jan 2004 - 18:04

Bird’s-eye view of Moy estuary and bay area

A bird count on the Moy estuary and Killala bay was held on Sunday, 28th of December last. There was a very good response to the request for help, which was published in the ‘Western People’ prior to Christmas. Fifteen birdwatchers from Westport to Sligo met in Ballina and divided into eight teams to survey designated beats along the Moy and bay area. A chilling northerly wind for the early part of the afternoon had the surveyors feeling more like shiverers than twitchers. One of the organisers, Mervyn Gawley commented: "We regrouped in the Merry Monk and cross-checked that there was no double-counting. Most of the teams had great counts and a good variety of birds. Ironically, the northerly wind had helped to drive many birds into the lee of the islands for shelter and concentrate flocks. A total of 8,404 birds were recorded, including 400 Brent Geese, 1,750 Golden Plover, 1,054 Lapwing, 1,938 Dunlin, 426 Curlew and 273 Godwits. "And, yet, among all these great flocks the greatest excitement was for a single Spotted Redshank (the RSPB estimate that only 80 to 250 of these birds spend winter along the entire coast of the British Isles)," explained Mr Gawley. The general consensus was a very good count and a great days’ birding with everyone interested in repeating the exercise next year. Mr Gawley added: "I would like to thank all the people who participated in the count, not only the counters, but also to landowners for granting access, the ‘Western People’, and, lastly, to the Merry Monk for facilitating us afterwards. "Believe me a couple of hot rums are just what a shivering twitcher needs at the end of the day."

Go-ahead for Castlebar’s new hotel now hinges on Council vote

The Town Manager in Castlebar has recommended the granting of an application for the construction of a hotel and multi-storey car park. However, the application proposed for Castle Street and lodged by Paul Reynolds, Michael Hegarty and Patrick McDermott contravenes the town development plan and must be put to a vote at next week’s monthly meeting of the council. Three quarters of the members must agree to the proposal. In a letter sent to the members of the council, Mr Ray Norton, Town Manager, said he considered the proposed development to be in the interests of the proper planning and sustainable development of the area and that planning permission should be granted for the 92 bedroom hotel, seven retail units, nine office units and 675 space multi-storey car part at the site of the Old Convent and the present Castle Street car park. Mr Norton said, however, the development would contravene materially the zoning objectives of the 1991 Development Plan where the area was zoned Community Facilities. Following a publication in a national newspaper which outlined the Council were considering granting permission which would materially contravene the development plan, two submissions were received from Michael Baynes, Main Street, on behalf of local residents. In his second submission, Mr Baynes said he had concerns about a path which would encroach onto land at the back of property owned by the residents of the street. At next Thursday’s meeting, a resolution must be passed that permission be granted by three-quarters of the total number of members. If the majority do not agree then the application will be refused. Mr Norton concluded by stating his recommendation the Council pass the required resolution in order to enable permission to be granted for the application.

Knock Airport passenger numbers up 25%

Knock International Airport has announced that passenger numbers increased by 25 per cent to 250,000 in 2003, from 199,000 the previous year. Turnover at the airport also increased by 30 per cent to €5.1 million while there was also a significant increase in staffing from 56 to 95, in response to the increased passenger traffic. Knock International Airport recently announced a new daily jet service between Knock and Glasgow International, in partnership with BMI Regional, which will commence early in 2004. The introduction in 2003 of daily flights between Knock International Airport and Birmingham, in association with My Travel Lite, has proved immensely successful. Over 75,000 passengers have availed of this service to date. "We are very proud of the performance of Knock International Airport in 2003. The success is due to the hard work and dedication of all involved, but most particularly our staff," said Liam Scollan, chief executive, Knock International Airport. "There have been a number of changes and positive developments at the Airport, and all involved have met those challenges with enthusiasm." Further developments during 2003 included the addition on a new Departure Area along with the major upgrading of the car park facilities at the airport. The total infrastructure investment was €3 million, including funding from the NDP and CLAR. The recent Budget announcement that the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs will be relocated to Knock International Airport is widely regarded as positive news for the surrounding area and the Borders, Midlands and Western Region as a whole, and firmly positions Knock International Airport as the infrastructural beacon for the region. Knock International Airport is Ireland’s fourth international airport. It is also the fastest growing airport in the country. Knock currently operates daily direct flights to and from Dublin, London Stansted, Manchester, and Birmingham and from March 2004, Glasgow International Airport. Charter flights to Lanzarote, Majorca/Palma, Malaga, Alicante and other European destinations for short breaks will operate throughout in 2004, as well as charter flights to the leading European shrines of Lourdes, Medjugorje and Fatima.


I loved the photo of the Little Egret on the front page of today – and the front page of the Western People has another rare bird the Spotted Redshank. Mayo Birdwatch have just set up a new website and they look like they are going to give us regular updates on what is out there for birdwatchers in Mayo. People will travel for miles to see rare birds like these but it’s much easier when they are on your doorstep. So get out there and enjoy the overwintering birds that come to Mayo.

The Castlebar Street car park hotel and high rise car park is an interesting one. Castlebar certainly needs more hotel rooms as there is not sufficient in town to hold a conference with more than a few hundred delegates. If you try to organise a conference expecting more than a few hundred delegates and you have to go to Westport. The rights and wrongs of the car park issue I am not sure about, but I believe that there were conditions attached to the uses to which the car park area could be put. This is why there has never been any attempt to charge for parking in the Castle Street/Bolgers Car Park as I understand it.  All that will change if the Council vote to give the go ahead next week.

One quarter of a million passengers travelling through Knock Airport last year? That ain’t at all bad. There was quite a bit of begrudgery about Knock - or something very close to begrudgery at least - in a recent discussion thread on's online forum recently which started with a simple query as to whether you could rent a car at Knock (you can). Apparently subsidies are OK when they apply to Dublin city buses or to the building of the Dart or the Luas or even Ryanair’s famous subsidies in Strasbourg but for some reason they are totally wrong when applied to Knock flights. A quarter of a million passengers is a lot of passengers for a regional airport which only has a catchment of perhaps 50,000 people within a 30 mile radius. Undoubtedly it is also helping to encourage businesses to establish bases in Mayo. A nearby airport is a sine qua non of any serious international business.  It's surely just as important a part of our infrastructure as are the roads leading into Mayo.

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