Strong case made for greenway
A decision on funding for the New Ross to Waterford greenway is expected to be made by the end of the month.
Councillors were updated about the €13.2m greenway at the monthly meeting of New Ross Municipal District.
Planning permission has been approved for the 22 km greenway, along with an additional 5 km spur from Rosbercon across the Red Bridge, looping back through Mountelliott into New Ross.
A company, Malachy Walsh consultants, has been commissioned to draft a design for the Waterford to New Ross greenway.
New Ross district director Eamonn Hore said he is confident work will begin on the greenway, along with the Red Bridge greenway spur to Mount Elliott, next year.
The 22km walking and cycling route would connect Ferrybank to New Ross along a disused railway line and would further connect with the Waterford Greenway stretching to Dungarvan via a new bridge over the Suir due to be constructed as part of the city's North quay development.
The New Ross to Waterford greenway would cost €8.7m while the Red Bridge greenway would cost €4.5m, Mr Hore said. He said planning permission was approved for the greenway in March, while Wexford County Council applied for funding for the greenway in September.
'The deadline was November 30. There were 22 applications from 16 local authorities. The good news is that there was an evaluation board set up. New Ross is one of ten the evaluation group has visited.'
A delegation of judges visited Waterford and New Ross on April 25.
In Waterford the CEOs of Kilkenny and Waterford county councils met the delegation and made presentations about the economic, health and social benefits of a greenway to an area, citing the example of the Waterford Greenway.
Hotelier Liam Griffin, who is chairman of the South East Action Plan for Jobs Tourism Group, also gave an impassioned presentation.
In New Ross the delegation met with Wexford County Council CEO Tom Enright who outlined the council's argument for the greenway.
'They spent all morning in Waterford and then travelled to New Ross to see the various aspects of the route here. They were very interested in Mountelliott and saw the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Bridge and the Red Bridge.'
He said they were very impressed with the 'wow factor' both structures could bring to a greenway. River cruise ship owner Declan Bates, who runs an angling and cruise business out of Kilmore Quay, took the delegation on a trip downstream on the Barrow, telling them he would develop a Waterford to New Ross route if the greenway gets the go-ahead.
The judges sent in 24 questions a few days later which have been answered and returned to them ahead of the awarding of funding.
Mr Hore said it was encouraging that they would ask so many questions, adding that one question concerned when the North Quays development - which would connect the Waterford and 'Kilkenny' greenways all the way to New Ross - would be completed. A decision is due on funding in late May, he said.
'We would be very hopeful. Please God we will get good news at the end of the month. We have applied for €9.98m which is 75 per cent of the total cost. The one caveat is that Transport Minister Shane Ross said the €53m will be spent over three years.'
This means only around €13m will be allocated between six greenway projects in the first year to get preparatory works financed, with an additional €19m awarded in 2020 and the remainder (around €21m offered in 2021).
Mr Hore said it would be a big ask for New Ross to get the total funding it requires this month.
'I think there is a fantastic application which couldn't have been better presented. They were told of all of the added value a greenway would bring. It's a really big deal. This could bring so many benefits, not only to New Ross and district, but to Waterford and Kilkenny also. With a fair wind we could have good news by the end of May.'
Councillors were united in their praise for the efforts of council officials in trying to get the greenway funding over the line.
Cllr Michael Sheehan said: 'If there is one project that will be transformational for the whole area it is the greenway. We have a unique selling point here.'
He said he has met people who visited the area to use the Waterford Greenway and ended up in accommodation in New Ross as there were no rooms available in Waterford.
'The greenway plan looks professional and I think it will be of huge benefit for everyone, particularly in this county.'
Cllr Martin Murphy said: 'I would say this cannot fail and will not fail. It will bring the whole three counties in this area together. It seems at this point there is no going back. This will be one of the big platforms to commence the regeneration of the town of New Ross post bypass.'
Cathoirleach Cllr John Fleming agreed, saying a greenway would be of wonderful benefit for New Ross.
'It will be gradual but it will be wonderful when it comes to fruition.'
Cllr Marie Doyle sought a time-line for works to commence on the greenway and was told by Mr Hore that the worst case scenario is they will begin in early 2020.
He said the detailed design has to be finalised and landowners have to be consulted and the project has to go tender.
'This will be done this year with construction next year.'
Cllr Anthony Connick said it was very unique that three councils were bidding for a greenway.
'Hopefully that will strengthen our case as it would be of huge benefit to the area.'
New Ross & District Chamber of Commerce President Jonathan Keenan said he was very impressed with the case being made for the greenway.
New Ross Standard