Louth councillors defend €200k ‘loss’ of Mell Greenway funding

Other factors were at play besides delay

€200k funding was lost by Louth County Council iat the Mell Greenway in Drogheda, but may become available again for a 'shovel ready' plan.

Drogheda Independent

Some Drogheda councillors have been defending the recent criticism of Louth County Council in ‘losing’ €200,000 funding for Mell Greenway, saying there were other factors at play besides delay.

With part of it running across private land, at the May Drogheda council meeting it was pointed out that allocating the funding was not as simple as people might think.

"We all received updates regarding the submission, and the greenway cuts across some private land and some areas of special conservation and they are the main issues that are holding up the entire plan,” explained Cllr Pio Smith.

Cllr Paddy McQuillan had raised the issue after Minister Heather Humphreys had publically stated, with some degree of frustration, that she had no choice but to withdraw the funding, three years after it had been allocated.

"Minister Humphreys seemed quite angry that the money had to be taken off us because we didn’t use it, and I wonder why the council has been quiet about this, and we’re the only ones talking about it,” said Cllr McQuillan. “There just doesn’t seem to be any accountability as to what happened.”

In correspondence to Louth TD Fergus O’Dowd, Minister Humphreys said:

“Unfortunately despite extensions previously granted by my Department, I understand as of the end of March 2023 Louth County Council had still not commenced work on the project. As a consequence, I regret that my Department was left with no alternative at this stage other than to decommit funding for the project”.

Deputy O’Dowd expressed anger at the perceived lack of action by the local authority.

“There is simply no excuse for this to happen given that the council have had three years to progress the project, their original proposal should have been reworked to secure the funding for the existing walkway if their initial plans were not feasible,” he told the Drogheda Independent.

However, Cllr Smith felt that the funding should be readily made available again, as it is a nominal amount to the state coffers.

“This is a government who say they have a surplus of €10 bn this year and €9 bin in the next the next year, so they should be able to find €200,000,” he said.”I have an email stating that Louth County Council is committed to progressing this project, so when the other issues are addressed, we should get the funding again.

"The blame is not with the council, as we have all addressed this on a number of occasions and I do believe it will proceed.”

All may be not lost, as Minister Humphreys indicated that the funding may still be made available if a suitable plan is in place.

“My Department would be happy to receive a fresh application for consideration under a future ORIS funding round when Louth County Council have progressed the project to a shovel ready stage,” she added, I believe it is incumbent on Local Authorities to utilise Government funding once it is allocated. In the case of this particular project over three years after the funding had been allocated, work had yet to even commence.”