Just six months after the Irish Farmer’s Association signed up to a national agreement on greenways, including the use of compulsory purchase orders (CPO) as a last resort, an IFA Regional Executive has said CPOs “simply won’t be tolerated”.
The Code of Best Practice for National and Regional Greenways was approved by all three of the main farming groups and published in December 2021. It centred on the use of farmland for greenways. At the time, the IFA even released their own press release welcoming the agreement.
But, despite the IFA and the Government spending some time negotiating the Code of Best Practice for a streamlined process that all sides apparently agreed with, Roy O’Brien, the IFA’s Regional Executive for the Galway and Mayo area, told the Connacht Tribune it was not something that could be “solved overnight”.
His comments were made in relation to the Athlone to Galway section of the Dublin to Galway Greenway. The Code of Best Practice was largely developed to address concerns from objectors to the greenway.
If or when its built, the cross-country greenway will be nearly 280km in length, but the Connacht Tribune reports that just 30 landowners are objecting to it.
The newspaper quoted O’Brian as saying: “The mention of compulsory purchase orders or splitting farmland in two is like a red rag to a bull. It simply won’t be tolerated. Remember, this is not about compensation.”
Some groups were quick off the block trying to imply that the greenway code was only about money, this started with the East Galway Greenway Action Group in February. When payments were clearly only part of the agreement and the IFA said such when the Code was agreed.
It will be seen as a worrying development that even IFA representatives are misrepresenting the Code of Best Practice.
It is being claimed that farmers are most worried that the greenway with “split” their land, but it’s also being reported that a large number of farmers are refusing to engage in the process of planning the route with the least disruption as possible while proving a high-quality route.
In December, welcoming the Code of Best Practice, Tim Cullinan, president of the IFA, said: “A key part of the Code is a new Sustainability Payment — once-off goodwill payment for early-sign on and co-operation — to each farmer, on top of the full value of any land acquired for a greenway as part of a voluntary land acquisition agreement process.”
Cullinan added: “The farmer’s statutory rights are fully protected if they participate in this voluntary process. They still have full access to mediation and arbitration if there is no agreement on the valuation of the land and compensation for other impacts on their farms.”
In the same press release, Paul O Brien, IFA National Environment Chairman, was paraphrased as outlining that “an essential aspect of the new code is the use of Voluntary Land Acquisition Agreements, in order to avoid the use of Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs), where private lands may need to be acquired to complete a greenway project.“
O Brien said: “A key element for the success of the Voluntary Land Acquisition Agreement approach is a new additional ex-gratia Greenway Sustainability payment, which will be paid to farmers in addition to the payment for land purchase and the other impacts of the greenway on their farm