Greenways have not led to increased criminal activity, hearing told

A number of Greenways have been established in Ireland.
A number of Greenways have been established in Ireland.

Anne Lucey

There has been no record of increase in criminal activity or anti-social behaviour as a result of greenways an oral hearing into the proposed South Kerry Greenway had been told.

The hearing into the 32km proposed Greenway is to go into a third week, An Bord Pleanala planning inspector Karla McBride said this morning.

Kerry County Council has begun outlining the case for moving to compulsory purchase order of the lands along the railway line between Glenbeigh and Renard Point, which was closed in 1960.

The council has defended the move to acquire farmers’ lands by CPO on the grounds of “the common good”.

The South Kerry Greenway is envisaged as “an enabler of economic rural generation” and developing the old railway line as an amenity trail has been an objective of the Kerry County Development Plan since 2003, the hearing heard.

A feasibility study was carried out independently by South Kerry Development Partnership "with no involvement" by Kerry County Council, the proposers, the hearing was also told.

The CPO mechanism, under the provision of the Housing Acts was proposed by the executive in December 2014 because agreement had not been reached. It was deferred to February 2015 to allow further discussion, project manager Conor Culloo noted.

However, agreement could not be reached and while all councillors were in favour of the recreational amenity for cyclists and walkers, eight councillors voted against the CPO measure, and 24 of the (33) members voted for, he noted.

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The council’s case to acquire the privately held lands, under the CPO process, is based on “the common good”, Mr Culloo said.

“The common good is being served by this scheme,” Mr Culloo said.

Of 136 submissions on the CPO, 104 were in support and 27 were opposed while there were five observations.

“It is not credible to suggest there is no local support for the greenway,” he said, referring to over to 1,223 signatures supporting the major infrastructural project.

Mr Culloo also said Greenways have not led to an increase in criminal activity.

The Greenway would be permanently fenced in to aid security. The Greenway will be fenced along its length and there will be no motorised vehicles on the route apart from maintenance and emergency vehicles.

The audience was also told that every effort was being made to “minimise” severance of land and impact on farmland.

In nine of 15 cases requests for deviations had been granted to landowners and householders.

The Strategy for the Future Development of National and Regional Greenways defines a Greenway as a ‘recreational or pedestrian corridor for non-motorised journeys developed in an integrated manner which enhances both the environment and quality of life of the surrounding area,” the council submission also said.

And in response to one landowner’s objections to the CPO process, Mr Culloo said the recently-published Government Strategy for the Future Development of National and Regional Greenways recognises that the objective is “to establish Greenways on a “permissive access” basis, where the landowner (private or public) gives permission for the Greenway to pass over the property” and “where a long term legal agreement will be necessary in order to provide certainty of continuous access to the facility given the very significant level of State funding required in their development”.

However, the Strategy also recognises that such permissive access was not possible in all cases, he said.

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