Plan for cycle route from Dublin to Galway halted by landowners' objections
Plans for a national cycleway between Dublin and Galway have been shelved due to opposition from landowners.
Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe has decided to "pause" development of a 145km stretch between Athlone and Galway - almost half the total route - after hundreds of landowners said they would oppose the project.
Instead, the Government will now go ahead with completing a 43km section of the greenway between Maynooth in Kildare and its border with Westmeath, which already has planning permission in place. It is hoped to complete this section by 2017.
The decision was taken after Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) completed a further round of consultation with almost 200 landowners, which represents some 20pc of those affected by the proposal.
Mr Donohoe asked TII and local authorities to meet with the parties in an attempt to broker a deal and allow the project go ahead, but the vast bulk said they would object.
"It is clear that there are significant concerns among communities in Galway and Roscommon along the preferred route about the impact the greenway will have on them," Mr Donohoe said.
"Having discussed the report with my departmental officials and with Oireachtas colleagues, I have decided to pause further development on this part of the greenway to allow time for all to reflect on the issues raised."
He said "the possibility of developing a new route that works locally and has the support of key landowners" would be considered.
The 280km project involves a dedicated greenway between the capital and the West, with the section east of the Shannon running for the most part along the towpaths of the Royal Canal and on the disused Mullingar-to-Athlone railway line.
The section west of the Shannon was due to connect Athlone with Shannonbridge, Ballinasloe, Aughrim, Kilreekil, Loughrea, Craughwell, Clarinbridge, Oranmore and Galway City, mostly along both private- and publicly-owned land.
However, following meetings with 194 landowners between Galway and Ballinasloe, 63pc were not in favour.
Of 429 meetings with landowners between Ballinasloe and Athlone along the proposed route corridor, just 23pc said they were in favour.
However, when details of the emerging route through Roscommon were discussed, 74pc of the 86 affected landowners said they would not object.
Among the main concerns identified by farmers were the impact on their business, including the loss of land, disruption to operations and animal disease control, plus concerns about security and trespass.
Another issue raised was that proximity to a cycleway would compromise hopes of securing planning permission for a home on family farmland.