A long-awaited National Greenways Strategy is due any week or possibly any day now, according to recent written parliamentary replies.
The strategy is now delayed past the point which transport minister Shane Ross said that he would be “amazed” if it was not published by this point.
The reasons for the continued rescheduling of the launch of the strategy is unclear, but cycling campaigners are getting openly more annoyed with the minister on a number of issues including funding for cycling, a lack of progress on cycle routes, and promised secondary legislation on a minimum passing distance.
One of the more contentious issues due to be covered by the greenway strategy includes the issue of compulsory purchase orders.
In January, minister Ross said the Greenways Strategy would be released “before the end of March 2018” and, in February, he said it was “currently being finalised”, then in April the minister said in a number of written replies he would be publishing the strategy “before the end of Q2 2018″, which ended on June 30. Back on June 12 it was still a matter of weeks.
It was also expected just two days delayed after the Q2 deadline, on Monday July 2. On that day, the transport minister Ross launched a recently constructed section of the Dublin to Galway Greenway along the Royal Canal between Maynooth and Enfield, but without launching the strategy.
Back in April, the minister had an exchange with Fianna Fail’s transport spokesman Robert Troy. Minister Ross said the strategy would be published “Before the summer recess, I hope.” When pressed on if it would be before the summer recess, Ross said: “I hope so, yes” and then, when Troy tried to talk again, Ross interjected and said: “It is nearing the last of its stages. I have a draft of it. It should be done before the summer recess. I would be amazed if it was not.”
In a written parliamentary in the last Thursday — the last planned day before the summer recess — Minister Ross said: “My officials are currently finalising the [Greenway] Strategy which will be published in the coming weeks. This is in line with another reply on July 3 in which Ross said: “I plan to publish the Strategy for the Future Development of National and Regional Greenways in the coming month.”
In March of 2017, Minister Ross said: “We have a new greenways strategy which is going to come out in June or July”. He did not specify a year.
In a number of parliamentary replies from the Department of Transport, the minister said: “The Greenways to be funded under the Strategy will be determined after a competitive call for applications later in 2018 with a view to awarding funding to a number of projects for drawdown between 2019 and 2021.”
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Minister Ross said: “Once published, the Greenways Strategy will provide a framework for the development of Ireland’s Greenways and will determine the type of project to be funded by my Department over the coming decade. This is a long term Strategy with the aim of increasing the number, length and regional spread of greenways across the country. It will set out guidance to project promoters on matters including strategic nature, length, design standards, accommodation works and early consultation with communities and land owners along proposed routes.”
“I expect a strong response to this funding call given the increased interest in Greenways in recent years. I would urge potential applicants for funding to progress their planning and design of Greenways as far as possible in advance of any application for funding and to resolve any land ownership issues through wide consultation with landowners,” he added.