“No one is opposed to the Greenway, there’s no doubt about it that it’ll be great for Kerry. However, there is room for the route so as it will not disturb our [farmer’s] way of life,” explained Jim.
“They never negotiated this with me, they never considered the alternative routes I offered them,” explained Jim, adding “I’m being tormented by them. I’ve been in court twice already over this, and will be again at the end of November.”
Jim is a member of the Greenway Information Group, which is made up of 40 or so landowners that are objecting to the to the route through their lands and want the council engineers to fix on alternatives.
Kerry Co Co has lodged a planning application with An Bord Pleanála for the South Kerry Greenway, a 32km cycleway along the old Great Southern Railway and it has notified almost 200 landowners of acquiring the land parcels by Compulsory Purchase Order.
The move by the council to CPO the entire route is being criticised by farmers and by the IFA nationally, who view Kerry County Council’s use of the CPO facility for a greenway as unprecedented and as a test case for all farmers.
However, the council says it has no choice but to force the sale after it failed to reach agreement over the past four years with all 197 landowners.
'If muck is left on the greenway I'll be liable'
Another farmer in the group particularly affected by the proposed route is Christy McDonald, a suckler farmer in Lisbawn, Kells. The greenway is to go straight across his driveway to his house and beef cattle sheds.
The width of the greenway is also raising concern for the farmers. According to Christy, the demanded land measures 750m length and 11m wide, when the drainage area and ‘buffer zone’ for the cycle path is considered, as well as the three-metre wide paved surface.
“I’ve offered three alternative routes. One of which is an underpass for the cyclists, the others are running along either side of the main road, so I can farm here undisturbed.
Other concerns raised by the group were issues surrounding liability. Farmers that will being crossing the route daily with machinery said that if dirt from their machinery is on the greenway, they are liable if there’s an injury.
“What am I supposed to do when I’m drawing bales up and down the lane to my cattle, if muck is left on the greenway, I’m liable if anything happens to someone that falls,” explained Christy.
Two separate parcels of land are being acquired from sheep farmer Seamus Walsh, linearly taking up 400m and 200m respectively, which he said will cause huge issues linked to accessing his farm if it goes ahead.
“To enter my main farm gate, you will have to cross this greenway which is 120m from the main road, causing major inconvenience for me. The engineers agreed that it was inconvenient, but they have no interest in changing this for us,” said Seamus.
'No regard to landowners'
“It’s going to be a fabulous structure for south Kerry, there no denying that. But they’ve given no regard to land owners, and there’s farmers livelihood at stake here.
“Farmers are being vilified. If we don’t object to An Bord Pleanála, for specific reasons for my farm, unfortunately we can’t go any further than this.
“There’s talks of compensation for the Greenway, but it’s not about that. Whatever they’re taking from our fields they’re leaving the remainder useless and worthless. Farmers' livelihoods are at stake here.
"Sections of the main N70 road are still lined with signs saying “Greenway yes, CPO, no.”
According to the group, several of the 197 land owners that have been served with a CPO have passed away some time ago, leaving the public to believe that the group opposing to the greenway route are the minority. One farmer said his family received three compulsory purchase orders for the same parcel of land.
“My father passed away some time ago, and still a letter was sent out in his name, while I also received one and another was sent to my son, all included in the 197 landowners, making the opposing look like a minority.”