Ireland’s first cross-country greenway should make better use of country roads and state-owned lands, a Galway-based Fine Gael TD has said.
Ciaran Cannon said in a statement that the proposed greenway route from Ballinasloe to Galway City is now “completely unviable” due to the level of opposition.
The TDs’ remarks came after Galway County Council’s head of roads and transport section, Liam Gavin called on elected councillors to be positive about the economic and social benefits from the provision of the greenway through East Galway. He said 40% of landowners already support the route.
There has, however, been a sustained campaign from elements of the Irish Farmers’ Association which has opposed the use of the CPO land acquisition system for greenways.
Deputy Cannon said he had organised a meeting with Ministers Paschal Donohoe and Michael Ring last May to allow farmer representatives to voice their concerns about the proposed route. Cannon said: “As a direct result of that meeting Minister Donohoe initiated a new process of engagement with landowners along the current route. He will shortly receive the final report from that process of engagement and must then make a decision on how best to proceed with the delivery of the greenway project. Deputy Cannon has met with numerous landowners over the last month and is now firmly of the opinion that the proposed route is unviable and cannot be delivered.”
Deputy Cannon said: “I have always been a strong advocate of the concept of greenways and I was delighted to see a proposal from Minister Donohoe to invest in a greenway linking Dublin with Galway. East Galway has never had any kind of significant tourism investment of this nature and to have a greenway linking our towns and villages would also provide a wonderful amenity for local families to avail of.”
“However, I am bitterly disappointed with the manner in which the current route has been designed and the kind of interaction that has taken place with local landowners. Long before the design process commenced, those responsible for that process should had sat down with landowners and sought their opinions and guidance as to how we could best deliver a greenway through the East Galway countryside. Instead, landowners were completely excluded from the design process and were presented with a route that had the potential to seriously threaten their livelihoods. What really mystifies me is that in designing the route from Dublin to Athlone, extensive use was made of state owned land. Yet, when we crossed the Shannon at Athlone, that concept was abandoned and a line was drawn at random across the countryside, making no use of state owned land and splitting farms in two. Having met with numerous landowners I am now in no doubt that the current route is completely unviable and should simply be abandoned as an option for the delivery of a new greenway”, said Deputy Cannon.
The TD, however, also rejects farmer’s suggestions that the old Dublin to Galway national road route be used.
He said: “To pursue the option of a greenway along the hard shoulder of the N6 would be a complete waste of resources as such a route wouldn’t be remotely attractive to typical greenway users. There are many more options that should be looked at including very significant tracts of land owned by Bord na Mona, Coillte and Iarnrod Eireann. We also need to use our quiet country lanes, of which there are many in East Galway. Some of these roads see very little traffic and travel through our very unique and beautiful countryside. In short, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and use a little common sense and diplomacy to deliver a new greenway that can enhance all of our lives.”
Deputy Cannon added: “I’m confident that the report to be presented by the NRA [TII] to Minister Donohoe in early October will outline that there is major opposition to the current route and I will be asking him to get a new design process underway and to ensure that it is an effective process which includes landowners from the very beginning”.