Comment & Analysis: Just over a week ago the Connacht Tribune newspaper reported that “Landowners see red at poor greenway dialogue“… the newspaper used a similar headline nearly a year ago covering the same saga. But, to be honest, I’d be fuming if the things they are saying were true.
The long-delayed project is part of the Dublin to Galway greenway and the European EuroVelo 2 Capitals Route. West of the Shannon the project team is now focused in on route corridor between Athlone Castle and Galway City that maximises use of State-owned land. Thousands at the route selection stage of the public consultation showed their support for the project.
None of hasn’t lowered the strength of objections to the walking and cycling route.
It’s now time for the project to move to the next stage — it currently has a wide route corridor where it crosses private land, that should now be narrowed down and at least some people can stop worrying. Galway County Council and the smaller number of landowners can then start to look at detailed solutions.
An East Galway Greenway Action Group disagree. Calling a finalised route before Christmas “not feasible”.
A member of the group, Jean Molloy from Stoney Island, was quoted by the Connacht Tribune as having said: “We’re expected to give up everything but yet we don’t see a real benefit in the way the route is going as it doesn’t connect villages or neighbours, our kids can’t use it to cycle to school.”
That’s fair enough, isn’t it? The route should be functional. But the route actually isn’t fully decided yet and there is scope within the route corridors to provide links to villages.
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The kind of broad-stroke list of objections the East Galway Greenway Action Group has been involved with hampers the search for the best and most balanced possible route.
Then I had to re-read the paragraph, wait “give up everything”? What’s that suppose to mean. Why would you have to give up everything for a greenway?
Surely it’s some kind of mistake? No, another quote from the same person said:
There’s so much to unpack. The comment that it “may suit tourists a few times a year” shows what the objectors think or at least what they are saying has no basis in reality of what greenways are like. Of course Summer is the busiest time, but greenways are active with people walking and cycling for the whole year, bar maybe extreme weather.
The plea of “Why can’t they go along the road, as long as it’s segregated?” is one which has been mentioned by the East Galway Greenway Action Group for some time now. The answer is easy: Retrofitting a greenway along most roads would impact more on homes and farm access than an off-road route would. It also wouldn’t be as attractive for anybody using the greenway.
It’s not at all impossible, but would be more disruptive to houses and farms along the road and likely have far more people objecting.
“Yet, we’re expected to give up our livelihoods, our privacy, our security,” Molloy said… but the question is who is expecting you to do those things? None of these things are required for greenways to happen.
And privacy and security are a regular concern. Greenways aren’t motorways — gangs aren’t using them to come down from Dublin and then getaway quickly.
Even if for some reason a greenway has to run beside a house (which is less likely with this route), privacy can be maintained by using some type of natural or man-made screening, as has been done on other greenways.
But then we get to the line “we’re expected to give up our livelihoods” — this is nothing short of an audacious claim that doesn’t stand up to any scrutiny.
Surely if people were expected to give up their livelihoods or “give up everything” that’d be the headline? That’s the problem with a claim like this — if it was focused on any more by the journalist, it would require scrutiny. But the claim doesn’t make any sense.
If there was an impact on a farm to the extent that it would damage its viability the processes in place — both the Greenway code agreed with farming groups and the CPO process — require the councils involved to avoid such impacts, look for alternatives or make it right in some way.
The action group claims there hasn’t been enough consultation. Director of service of infrastructure at Galway County Council, Derek Pender, said in September that there’s been 1,500 face-to-face or phone call consultations with 350 potentially impacted private landowners over 15 months
Molloy adds: “They have told landowners that a final route is to be released before Christmas, but this is just not feasible…”
But why isn’t it feasible? The current phase of the route development is a reasonably defined route across State-owned land (green in the maps below) and a wider corridor (shown in blue) across privately owned land.
Isn’t the number of 350 potentially impacted private landowners likely to be significantly narrowed down once a route is more defined? More certainty, fewer people having to worry and more scope for face-to-face engagement seems like exactly what this project needs.