Greenways should not be included in definition of public roads – IFA

Emotional contributions on fourth day of public hearing into South Kerry Greenway

The proposed 32km project is earmarked for a disused railway line skirting the N70 Ring of Kerry.

The proposed 32km project is earmarked for a disused railway line skirting the N70 Ring of Kerry.

 

Pathways developed for cycling and walking should not be included in the definition of public roads, the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has told an increasingly fraught public hearing into the South Kerry Greenway.

“Our contention is greenways or blueways are amenity crossings through private lands,” IFA county chairman Pat O’Driscoll said.

The fourth day of the Bord Pleanála hearing in Tralee heard a number of emotional contributions on the proposed 32km project earmarked for a disused railway line skirting the N70 Ring of Kerry.

Mr O’Driscoll said the council’s approach had been “heavy-handed” and divisive and claimed landowners were given an undertaking by the originators of the project, the South Kerry Development Partnership, that there would be no compulsory purchase order (CPO) of land.

However, the council’s legal representative said this was a different body to the local authority.

Senior Kerry County Council planner Tom Sheehy rejected claims that there had been a lack of consultation with the 160 landowners affected.

“Kerry County council engaged and continues to engage right up to the start of this week,” he said.

“It is still the case the majority of the 160 agricultural landowners are in favour. Twenty-seven are not. A number of these stated to me: ‘You will never take an inch of my land and you will never get it’,” Mr Sheehy added.

Designed for 1,500 cyclists and walkers a day at peak periods like August, the greenway will welcome almost 45,000 people a month, the hearing into both the planning and the CPO process was told.

An annual minimum payment of €300 euro is being offered as well as €2 a metre for the length running through the greenway.

‘An extraordinary opportunity’

Cahersiveen shoeshop owner Deirdre Garvey, who returned with her family to the town, said the greenway was “an extraordinary opportunity, for the ordinary people” of south Kerry.

However, she called for a more “nuanced” approach, to accommodate the concerns of landowners and to compensate them properly.

The hearing was a factual process but it was very hard to remove the emotional side “when you are speaking of a person’s home place and land”, Ms Garvey said.

“It’s a pleasurable project. It’s a leisure amenity. It shouldn’t be unpleasurable for people along the greenway line... I don’t want to benefit from something if my neighbours are blackguarded in the country,” Ms Garvey said, in a contribution that was met with a round of applause from the room.

An application on Thursday to adjourn proceedings to allow a group of 27 landowners to study new information on the environmental impact of the project introduced by the council has been refused.

Planning inspector Karla McBride, who is chairing the hearing, refused the application, saying it was the job of the hearing to gather information and it was up to the board to assess the environmental statements.

But Michael O’Donnell, barrister for the landowners, said the proceeding was prejudicial to them. There has been added criticism of the fact that the hearing is taking place in Tralee rather than south Kerry, leaving dozens of landowners with a 140km round-trip each day by car as there is no public transport.