Farmers up in arms over CPOs for Ring of Kerry cycle route
Published 24/05/2016 | 02:30
Farmers are threatening to withdraw their goodwill from a new €4.5m public cycleway planned for a stretch of the Ring of Kerry.
While the vast majority of the 172 landowners along the 32km route claim to support the concept, there is growing resistance to the compulsory purchase order (CPO) mechanism being adopted by the County Council.
"This area needs the Greenway badly because it would be a perfect fit with the type of activity holidays that are not completely weather dependent that this region can offer," admitted local part-time sheep farmer, Denis O'Connor.
"So it can't come soon enough. But a CPO is a deadly blunt instrument that takes one man's livelihood and turns it into another's good time."
Kerry County Council first announced that it had secured funding for a cycleway to be constructed along the old railway line between Glenbeigh and Valentia back in 2014.
Senior county engineer, Tom Sheehy said that the council held a series of meetings with local landowners over the course of three months in 2014 before it concluded that a CPO was the best way to proceed with the project.
"We found that there were at least 10 landowners spread out along the route who were adamant that they would not let the project through their land," said Mr Sheehy.
"At that point we had a choice to let the funding go or to push on because it was important for the area."
While €15,000/ac had been suggested as a payment for land along the route initially, a CPO will involve independent land valuers that are likely to push for values above and below this level.
An independent report estimated that the cycleway would bring an additional spend to the Kerry region of €7.3m from domestic and foreign tourists.
The local town of Cahirsiveen suffered a 10pc drop in population in the most recent census, compared to a 28pc increase in neighbouring Kenmare.
"We know the goodwill of farmers is vital, and we recognise that the CPO has put a dent in that, but we still believe it will be successful," said Mr Sheehy.
County Council officials will be meeting with IFA representatives next week to discuss proposals to build in a subsidy for farmers that participate in maintaining the route.