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.
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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.