Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Wednesday 20 September 2017

The Great Greenways Debate: 'If they had negotiated with farmers, they would have got agreement a lot sooner'

Majella O'Sullivan examines the Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) issues for farmers from greenway developments

Morgan Lyne pictured on the old dissused railway line which runs through his land along the proposed new cycle greenway route at Kells, County Kerry.
Morgan Lyne pictured on the old dissused railway line which runs through his land along the proposed new cycle greenway route at Kells, County Kerry.
The Kells Viaduct on the Ring of Kerry where the Dublin to Cahersiveen train passed by Dingle Bay. The last train to cross the bridge was in 1960. The route is one of the proposed 'greenway routes' for walkers and cyclists.
Morgan Lyne pictured on the old dissused railway line which runs through his land along the proposed new cycle greenway route at Kells, County Kerry.
Majella O'Sullivan

Majella O'Sullivan

Driving along the coastal route heading south on the Iveragh Peninsula, white posters - intermittently attached to telegraph poles at the side of the road - catch the motorist's eye.

'Yes to cycle way, No to CPO', they proclaim, betraying the unease at which Kerry County Council's plans have been met by some.

Former Environment Minister Alan Kelly announced the plans to develop the 27km Glenbeigh to Renard South Kerry Greenway, along the old Great Southern & Western railway line in 2014, ringfencing €4m for the project.

Because of resistance from a small number of farmers and landowners, who were concerned about land severance and the potential interference from people using the route, Kerry County Council failed to acquire the land through agreement and has gone down the CPO route.

The Kells Viaduct on the Ring of Kerry where the Dublin to Cahersiveen train passed by Dingle Bay. The last train to cross the bridge was in 1960. The route is one of the proposed 'greenway routes' for walkers and cyclists.
The Kells Viaduct on the Ring of Kerry where the Dublin to Cahersiveen train passed by Dingle Bay. The last train to cross the bridge was in 1960. The route is one of the proposed 'greenway routes' for walkers and cyclists.

Currently an environmental impact study (EIS) is being prepared because of the sensitive nature of the landscape and the project's scale, to be submitted to An Bord Pleanála.

The final route design, from an engineering perspective, has been determined but ecological appraisals are now being completed on this.

Director of Operations with the local authority, Charlie O'Sullivan, said realistically, it will probably be a further six to eight weeks before the EIS is submitted.

He said the council made the decision to go with CPOs about 18 months ago, primarily because it was impossible to get agreement from over 170 landowners along the 27km route.

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"Our first priority was to try to get consensus or agreement but that's impossible when you're dealing with such a large number and, unfortunately, we did come across difficulties with a small number of landowners - around 10pc," Mr O'Sullivan said.

"Some of those wouldn't be hardline objectors but it's like any major road project, a CPO is the only way to secure the land without delaying the scheme."

Morgan Lyne pictured on the old dissused railway line which runs through his land along the proposed new cycle greenway route at Kells, County Kerry.
Morgan Lyne pictured on the old dissused railway line which runs through his land along the proposed new cycle greenway route at Kells, County Kerry.

The complexities of designing the route, assessing its impact and acquiring the land are offset by what is a dire need for economic stimulation for the south Kerry region.

"When you look at the other regional towns like Kenmare and Killorglin that have seen population growth between 2006 and 2011, Cahersiveen experienced a population decline of 9.7pc.

"Trying to attract industry and job creation to peripheral areas is extremely challenging and tourism is our biggest industry. South Kerry isn't stimulating any great job creation like Killarney or Dingle and even Tralee because a lot of the tourists are passing through but not staying.

"Greenways tend to attract visitors that cycle the route and stay in the area while they're doing it," Mr O'Sullivan added.

Kells farmer, Morgan Lyne is in favour of the cycle way that traverses his land at three separate locations but insists the council's use of CPOs has soured goodwill towards the project.

It is now feared these could be challenged legally, which will further delay the greenway.

Mr Lyne understands its importance and with a teenage daughter joining the workforce in a few short years, he'd love if there was something to keep her in the area.

"This is the first greenway they needed a CPO for and the council told us in February 2015 the reason they were going for a CPO was because the money had to be spent and the greenway built by 2016.

"We're now into the middle of 2017 and the CPO, in my estimation, has put the deadline further out.

"If they had negotiated with the farmers, they would have got agreement a lot sooner," he said.

"In some places it's coming very close to dwelling houses and farmyards and these people do have an issue and were giving alternative routes, but the council was not accepting them," he added.

Kerry County Council's use of CPOs has done nothing to quell the fears of landowners in other parts of the country.

In May, Tourism Minister Shane Ross announced a public consultation process on the future development of greenways, inviting submissions from interested parties, who have until July 14 to make submissions.

The minister said he had been "inundated with requests for funding for greenways", due to their success.

He also announced further funding of €4.5m for the Galway to Dublin Greenway to progress elements of it in Kildare and Meath, and €1.6m to complete the work on the Waterford Greenway.

However the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers' Association (ICSA) has accused Mr Ross and Minister of State, Patrick O'Donovan, of reneging on their commitment to comprehensively consult with landowners in delivering cycle routes, in light of the news that up to 170 Kerry landowners could be subject to a CPO.

ICSA Galway representative, Adrian Kelly, says all landowners are looking for is to be consulted on the route selection and not be "backed into a corner" when presented with a fait accompli.

He said the issues in Kerry had intensified concerns of landowners in Connemara and East Galway that Galway County Council would resort to similar measures.

"A CPO was on the table from the very start and we don't accept that any farmer should be subject to one because I believe every farmer has the right to farm his land, regardless of how many are involved, and that right should not be taken away from them," Mr Kelly told the Farming Independent.

"The landowners in Kerry have put forward an alternative route which would get around this but the council won't work with them and are saying, 'we're going this route and that's it'.

"There is the compromise route out there and we've had this in Galway East and Galway West, which would make everyone happy."

Mr Kelly said no one should be put into a situation where they're stressed out or worried because their right to farm their land was being "attacked".

He said the routes for the National Cycle Network should not be confined to "greenway" only and local authorities should be open to off-road and segregated on-road elements.

"There are several options but the minister is focusing on greenways only," he added.


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