Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Tuesday 23 April 2019

Greenway backlash: Majority of farmers against greenways regardless of compensation

  • Only 46pc of farmers would allow a greenway on their land
  • Willing farmers want €56k (once-off) payment per km
  • Insurance, impact on farming operations and nuisance/crime - biggest concerns
Farmers protesting over Greenway CPOs. Photo By : Domnick Walsh
Farmers protesting over Greenway CPOs. Photo By : Domnick Walsh
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

A majority of farmers are unwilling to allow greenways on their land, irrespective of compensation, new research has revealed.

The findings come as the Government rolls out ambitious plans to construct an extensive network of off-road walking and cycling routes across Ireland.

However, land acquisition has proven challenging in some rural areas with bitter disputes developing in some parts over suggestions of compulsory purchase orders being used.

The study conducted jointly by researchers in the Whitaker Institute at NUIG Galway and Teagasc used data from the Teagasc National Farm Survey (NFS) of Ireland, to explore farmers’ willingness to participate in greenway development.

Waterford Greenway
Waterford Greenway

Those in-the-market and conditionally willing to allow a greenway on their land constituted only 46pc of those surveyed.

Of the farmers willing to participate in greenway development, the mean (once-off) payment they said they would require was €56,000 per kilometre of greenway length.

The research found that farmers’ main concerns over greenways were insurance, impact on farming operations and nuisance/crime.

The research also suggests farmers with higher farm earnings are less likely to accept a greenway on their land with concerns over the impact on farm operations to the fore.

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The researchers found that while all farmers are likely opposed to losing land, the costs for doing so and the decrease in overall farm productivity will be greater for more productive or intensively farmed lands.

A significant amount of regional variation was found to exist among farmers. Farmers in the south-west and midlands-east regions are more likely to participate relative to farmers in the south-east and west.

Farmers protest against south Kerry greenway forced land sales . Mike Sheehy from Renard Caherciveen .Photo By : Domnick Walsh
Farmers protest against south Kerry greenway forced land sales . Mike Sheehy from Renard Caherciveen .Photo By : Domnick Walsh

The researchers suggested that this may partly be explained by the proposed plans and routes for the greenway network.

To date, canal towpaths and disused railways are two of the main sources of land for greenways within Ireland.

The grand and royal canals run from Dublin through the midland’s regions to the Shannon River, meaning disruption to landowners and requirements to cross their land may be minimal in these regions, perhaps explaining why farmers in these regions are less threatened by the greenway developments.

In contrast, the western region lacks canals and along the most contentious greenway route from Athlone to Galway the railway lines are still in use.

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.

This creates a need to acquire a significant quantity of land and may be the reason why farmers in the western region are less likely to participate in the greenway scheme.

Lead researcher Mr Eoin McGurk said the findings suggest that Government agencies and local authorities must work to alleviate farmers’ concerns and undertake extensive consultation to yield acceptable route options.

The Red Bridge Greenway near New Ross
The Red Bridge Greenway near New Ross

"Given the potential benefits from the greenway network and the provision of funding by the Irish government, overcoming access and routing problems is key to the progress of greenway development," McGurk said.

However, he said there are some avenues for addressing some farmers’ negative perceptions of greenways.

"While concerns over losing land and the impacts on production are difficult to reconcile, issues relating to increased insurance costs are solvable through agreement with local authorities."

Similarly, he said many farmers are concerned about the impacts of recreationalists in relation to nuisance and crime.

"While there may be genuine issues relating to these concerns, so far residents and farmers in proximity to opened greenways have generally been favourably disposed to the developments.

"Further outreach and engagement with the farming community about the greenway network and concrete steps to help assuage their concerns could reduce opposition significantly," he said.

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