Pietermaritzburg - Msunduzi Municipality’s proposed multimillion-rand expansion of Pietermaritzburg Airport is set to get under way this year.Vacant land around the airport is set to form part of the long-term developments. The airport itself will see an upgrade to the aviation infrastructure to cater for anticipated growth in passenger and cargo volumes, resulting in increased air traffic.The proposed developments and upgrades form part of the first phase of the Airport Master Plan, which is expected to last until 2025.The development will see over 20 hectares under indigenous vegetation being used as part of the project, and there is therefore a need for an application for environmental authorisation supported by a scoping and environmental impact assessment (SEIA). The municipality has commissioned the Institute of Natural Resources NPC (INR) to manage this process.Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Commerce CEO Melanie Veness said the entire region would benefit greatly from the upgrades and development.“The Pietermaritzburg Airport is significant to the whole region. It benefits more than just Pietermaritzburg — from the Hillcrest area to Newcastle, it is central to the Midlands …”As part of the infrastructure upgrades, there will be an extension of the taxiway to service an extension of the aircraft apron.Existing hangars will be reconfigured and there will be expanded facilities for aircraft maintenance and repair.A site will be allocated for the future expansion of the terminal building.There will also be improved access via a link to Washington and/or Market roads, a new parking area and drop-off zone, an industrial zone, and mixed commercial zones.A technology hub located between the runway and western boundary of the airport on Oribi Road provides for special sports, commercial, hotel and light industrial developments.The Witness previously reported that a multimillion-rand high-performance sports facility would be based at the Pietermaritzburg Airport as part of the proposed technology hub. The proposal, spearheaded by the Union Cycleste Internationale (UCI), included a velodrome with an indoor cycling track with the hope of attracting European cyclists during that continent’s winter months.The development of the various elements is expected to take place over an extended period of 10-15 years, in response to market demand and other factors, notably finance.Funding is available for the layout of the technology hub, including bulk services. The hub will therefore be the first of the proposed developments at the airport, and construction is expected to commence in the second half of 2016.A progress meeting with stakeholders is set to take place this week, and a focus group meeting for the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business in early February.— Witness Reporter.