South Kerry Greenway nears planning stage as farmers continue to fight compulsory purchase

IMAGE: File image of the Castlebar greenway in Co Mayo.

Kerry County Council said that it will lodge a planning application for the South Kerry Greenway with An Bord Pleanála within weeks, according to The Kerryman newspaper.

The local newspaper reported this week that “There is huge local support for the project” and that “The consensus among the wider community is that it is the only way to save South Kerry.”

The 32km-South Kerry Greenway is on the Ring of Kerry between Glenbeigh and Renard via Caherciveen. It will include the use of compulsory purchase orders (CPOs), which some farmers have strongly opposed.

Farming groups, the Irish Farmers’ Association and the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA), have struggled with each other to seem to be the strongest on the issue.

The ICSA said last year that using the compulsory purchase process in Kerry “amounts to concerned landowners being thrown under the bus for a non-critical infrastructure project”, while previously the IFA said that using the process would “destroy a commercial farm for a walkway” and that it would “put some farmers out of business”.

In an echo of comments that greenways would put farmers out of business, IFA president Joe Healy, last month, said: “Farmers and their families are the most important stakeholders in any rural infrastructure development, as projects such as greenways will have an ongoing impact on their livelihoods and farm businesses.”

Seamus Sherlock, the ICSA rural development chairman, in April, said: “CPOs are viewed as heavy handed in the extreme and fill landowners with absolute fear and confusion. Many feel they are being forced into a David versus Goliath position and have to deal with all the stress and anxiety that goes with that.”

Farming groups continue to call for the “threat” of compulsory purchase to be removed. But planners of the routes are clear that, if CPOs were removed as a final option, just a few landowners could block projects on principal or look for above market rates for very small sections of land.

The claims made by farming groups are despite the fact market value of property is paid for any land, and that the CPO process includes the condition that landowners should be left in the same financial position after the CPO as before it.

The way farming groups describe greenways are as if they are continuous rigid designs of a path for just cycle and walking, when existing examples of greenways in Co Mayo include sections of greenway routes which are shared with farm and other access.

Farming leaders tried to use the County Galway section of the Dublin to Galway Greenway as a test case for opposing compulsory purchase of land for greenways, but the fight against CPOs has since moved to County Kerry.

Farming groups have also tried so-far unsuccessfully to claim that the CPO process is only for “critical” infrastructure, which would be a very restrictive view of the CPO process generally which are designed for projects which are for the public good. The groups have also claimed a lack of consultation, while Kerry County Council said that it attempted to acquire land by agreement before resorting to CPOs.

Recently the farmers have started to use the slogan “yet to greenways, no to CPOs”, but farming leaders have continued to talk up the idea that greenways would be cutting farms in half.

The South Kerry Greenway has been delayed mainly due to objections, and extra consultation. In February 2017, Radio Kerry reported that planning would proceed in “over the coming months.” In May 2018 the council said it expected to lodge the plans in June.

I am editor of IrishCycle.com and have reported on and commented on cycling in Ireland for over a decade.

7 Comments

  1. Given Kerry’s (or at least their elected representatives’) liking for drunk driving it seems that somewhere safe to walk and cycle are even more important doesn’t it?

  2. There has been resistance to the CPO element of this Greenway for many years. I would like to hear more on the support for the project in Kerry itself that is alluded to in the article and whether any local pressure is being brought to bear on the recalcitrant landowners (who I believe were foolishly granted the railway land by the state back in the 50’s), because this would clearly be a huge boon for the area and it’s residents.

    A small number of landowners appear to be putting there own very narrow interests ahead of those of the other residents of the area. the only explanation for this behaviour that I can think of is either because they want to squeeze more money out of the state or that they genuinely believe that a potential very minor inconvenience to them is more important than the huge additional income and jobs that this greenway will bring to South Kerry. The claims that it will put farmers out of business are ridiculously overblown. The Mayo and Waterford greenways both show how good access for farmers to their agricultural land can be easily incorporated into the greenway infrastructure.

    The IFA and ICSA are just fighting against the general principle of applying CPOs to agricultural land and do not care about the benefits to the area one way or the other.

    @Eric
    In fairness, that is not really helpful.

  3. “landowners being thrown under the bus” – nice expression to use when objecting to a segregated cycle route

  4. @aka I think it is useful to point out the hypocracy or stupidity of blocking something that would increase safety for walkers and cyclists while trying to ensure the roads are more dangerous by supporting drunk drivers and unaccompanied learners.

  5. The Mullingar/Athlone route has many farm accesses on it with crossings of the greenway for farms

  6. CPOs take a long, long time, and create antagonism. If it is used as a possible tactic, take a higher offer instead of the CPO, it might make some sense (a tactic is getting access for roads without the longwinded CPO process), but a permissive way (or whatever it’s exactly called) policy is far better (although some big loops resulted from some inflexible landowners). Perhaps Kerry CoCo should emphasise how landowners can cross and recross as necessary, how it can improve access to farmland, increased economic opportunity, and so forth.

  7. Ireland by bike – Day 1 (part 2) Monday 23 July

    Cian McCormack reports from Ennis, county Clare in his annual series for Morning Ireland; which focuses on ‘Lesser Heard Places’ and ‘Unlocking the potential of rural Ireland’

    https://www.rte.ie/radio1/morning-ireland/podcasts/

    He interviews to small holding Farmers on his route of the Great Southern Trail, they give a very interesting insight into the positive effects of the Greenway in Limerick.

    This interview should be widely circulated.

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