Saturday 10 December 2016

Future of the Wicklow Way in doubt if €40k compensation award stands

Aodhan O'Faolain

Published 25/11/2016 | 19:16

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The future of the Wicklow Way will be in doubt if a €40,000 award to a hill walker is upheld, the High Court has heard.

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Pat Mellon, a Rural Recreation Officer with Wicklow Partnership told the court the popular 130km Wicklow Way could "disintegrate" if a Circuit Court ruling that Teresa Wall was entitled to damages following a fall on part of the trail more than three years ago is upheld.

Her action was against the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) which installed a boardwalk on which she fell.

Mr Mellon said that other landowners whose property the Wicklow Way goes through had become concerned about the implications of last April's Circuit Court decision.

Some had informed him they were considering withdrawing permission allowing hill walkers on their lands if that ruling stands. 

Others could follow and this could result in the closure of the Wicklow way which runs from South County Dublin, through the Wicklow Mountains and ends in Co Carlow.

Mr Mellon, who works with landowners in Co Wicklow to facilitate hillwalking was giving evidence before Mr Justice Michael White on the third day of the NPWS appeal against the Circuit Court's decision.

He said a scheme is currently in place where a small payment is made to any landowner who allows hill walkers on their lands that forms part of a trail.

Once a trail gets approval from the national accrediting body, the National Trails Organisation, insurance on the private landowners property is covered by Irish Public Bodies.

Mr Mellon said getting landowners to give hill walkers permission to go onto their property had previously been "a tough sell".

However following the Circuit Court's decision it had become "an impossible sell."

Some of the Wicklow way goes through lands owned by the NWPS and Collite, plus some 38 private landowners.

Since the award, three private landowners have informed him they would withdraw their permission for walkers to go on their land.

In her action Ms Wall says she fell after her foot snagged in a hole in one of the old railway sleepers that makes up a boardwalk on part of the popular 130km trail.

The accident occurred close to the JB Malone memorial on the Sally Gap to Djouce trail near Roundwood on August 6, 2013, while she and her husband were coming down the mountain.

 Mrs Wall (60) from Rathingle Cottages, Swords, Co Dublin said she suffered a gash to her right knee which required seven stitches.

She sued claiming the NPWS had been negligent and in breach of its duty of care towards her.

She claims the NPWS permitted a defect to be present in in the boardwalk where the timber had rotted away, created a tripping hazard, left the boardwalk in a unsafe condition and created a public nuisance at the site.

The claims are denied.

The NPWS says Mrs Wall contributed to her injuries by not looking where she was going and was the author of her own misfortune.

Last April Judge Jacqueline Linnane at Dublin Circuit Court awarded her €40,000.

The NPWS appealed the decision to the High Court.

The appeal resumes in two weeks time.

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