A controversial proposal to extend the runway at Sligo airport on a raised platform in Sligo Bay has been described as "ludicrous" by local campaigners.
But the airport board said that it would be unable to continue commercial operations without the 259 metre extension to the runway.
Sligo County Council will decide by November 1st whether to grant permission for the development at Strandhill - where a plane with 40 passengers on board ended up with its nose in the sea having overshot the runway in November 2002.
A local conservation group said that even if the platform "five times the size of a football pitch" is built in the bay which has been declared a Special Area of Conservation it would only be a "stopgap" measure as the runway would still be too short for major commercial carriers.
"It is not Istanbul," said Frank Carter, spokesman for the group. The council has received 71 submissions in connection with the application for "safety improvement works", designed to meet the safety standards required by the Irish Aviation Authority.
Last February the Government announced an €8.5 million grant for the airport. The Dorrin's & Cummeen Strand Conservation Group has said that the proposal would be a "nightmare" for local residents. It would mean the loss of a popular bathing area and of a traditional access route to nearby Coney Island.
They have argued that the construction of a platform measuring 270 metres long by 150 metres wide and some 4.5 metres high in order to accommodate the runway would be "an outrageous imposition" on views.
It could also have catastrophic effects on tidal flow, the group argues.
Dorrin's Strand has been designated a Special Protection Area under the 1979 EU Birds Directive and has also been designated a Ramsar site because of its importance in the migratory patterns of the Brent Goose.
The project has also been opposed by local clam farmers who say it would interfere with a vibrant shellfish industry.
The conservation group said that even if the runway was increased to 1,458 metres it would still be considerably shorter than most regional airports including Knock (2,300 metres) and Kerry (2,000 metres).
"It is questionable if Sligo airport should be spending public monies on a runway extension which will not be viable in the medium or long term" said Mr Carter.
© 2007 The Irish Times
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