Plans for a greenway from Rosslare to Waterford may have to be revised after local councillors questioned the design of the proposed project.
At the meeting of Rosslare Municipal District on Monday last Senior Engineer Brian Galvin and Executive Engineer Fintan Ryan provided an update on the 57.5km greenway which is centred around the out-of-service Rosslare Strand to Waterford rail corridor.
Beginning at Rosslare Europort, the proposed route would travel adjacent to the Dublin to Rosslare Europort railway line for 6.2km before reaching Rosslare Strand.
From there it would follow the existing railway line through Bridgetown, Wellingtonbridge and Campile for 48kms and connect with the New Ross to Waterford greenway.
However, having walked the route two days previously, Cathaoirleach Ger Carthy had one serious issue with its layout.
'I'm led to believe the greenway is to be installed on the inner side of the track, not the coastal side.
'I wouldn't be in favour of that. And I'd encourage the councillors not to agree to have that installed in a field five or six feet below the railway line.
'There isn't much point in us as a council agreeing to a greenway that's buried down in a field. It doesn't give the appropriate views similar to that of the Waterford greenway. We need the best possible product for this area,' said the Councillor.
Explaining why the decision had been taken to place the route on the inner side of the track Mr Galvin said their thinking had been influenced by the threat of coastal erosion.
'This is a very significant investment and we have to have certainty in how we invest this money and that the work is going to be protected. For that reason we've stayed on the landside of the existing railway line.
'We don't have any certainty that Irish Rail is going to proect that whole section from coastal erosion,' he said.
In response Cllr Carthy said, 'I presume they (Irish Rail) are not going to allow their railway line to fall into the sea. They must have a defined distance from the line to the coast, which they must have to allow safe usage of train.
'I think we have to go back to the drawing board in relation to this. The members of the Council will have to go out and walk the line because we can't agree to where it's going.
'It's disappointing we've engaged and spent hundreds of thousands on consultants and this is what they come up with. That's the best they can do.'
Reminding the Cathaoirleach funding for the project had already been secured and that they needed to be at the planning stage to guarantee funds for the next step in the project, Mr Galvin said the consultants had already walked the line but that he was happy to organise for the councillors to do the same in the New Year.
Underlining the importance of having the route on the coastal side, Cllr Carthy said, 'We have to make the best possible product, and as far as I'm concerned it's not the best option.
'The most scenic route, most attractive route is on the coastal side.
There's no point in doing anything in haste because of funding, we were lucky enough to get in on the New Ross greenway, and we'll get the money for the Rosslare one, but we have to do it right.'
Fine Gael Councillor Jim Moore had a further suggestion, a compromise of sorts. 'It's very low-lying at the loss of views, is there a measure to raise the route for the scenic views?' he asked.
This suggestion was accepted by Mr Galvin and Mr Ryan as a possible solution before Cllr Lisa McDonald said a decision needed to be made sooner rather than later.
'I've cycled all of greenways in Ireland, some are scenic, some aren't, but they are being all used.
'We're crying out for a greenway in Wexford and I'd like to see it completed before my arthritis sets in.'
As part of the proposed greenway a new one-way system would be implemented in Rosslare Strand allowing for a circulation system on Station Road, Coast Road and Mauritiustown Road, which would facilitate the introduction of high quality facilities for pedestrians and cyclists.
'It's very important this comes through Rosslare Strand; from the perspective of Rosslare this is a town with significant tourism interest and it has a beautiful beach,' said Mr Galvin.
'We're anxious that the beach be used and people be brought into town and very anxious we ensure adequate and proper provisions for those using it and those in the town.
And continue to have parking without inconveniencing residents.'
In addition, the design would see two pedestrian bridges installed over the railway line at Station Road and Mauritiustown Road.
And although he had his reservations about the overall design of the project, Cllr Carthy was eager to see work on both the one-way system and the bridges begin as early as possible.
'I don't think there's any impediment to them going ahead now. We have the consent of Irish Rail, it may take a number of months, but those works should commence immediately,' he said.
Mr Galvin however, said this came with complications of its own.
'Those works are proposed as part of the greenway project. We have to be careful in terms of project splitting, there can be difficulties if anyone tries to split the project.'
In terms of timeline, Mr Galvin said a planning application needed to be submitted in An Bord Pleanála in the New Year and that it would take approximately 8-10 months for a decision to be made. At that point the engineers would compile a detailed design and prepare documents for tender.