Kerry County Council CPOs are ‘divisive and heavy-handed’ – IFA

The use of compulsory purchase orders (CPO’s) on farms by Kerry County Council has been labelled as “divisive and heavy-handed” by the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).

Thomas Cooney, the association’s environment chairperson, is attending an ongoing oral hearing in Tralee on the proposed South Kerry Greenway. At this hearing, almost 40 landowners – mainly farmers – will raise concerns over CPOs and the apparent lack of public consultation on the project.

Cooney said that the IFA was in favour of the creation of the cycle path and recreational route in Co. Kerry, but he called on the county council there to “pull back” from its approach.

IFA supports the development of recreational routes and recognises the role they play in promoting agri-tourism and economic activity in rural areas. However, many farmers impacted by Kerry County Council’s proposal feel misled and unheard.

“Eight years ago, farmers in good faith engaged constructively with the promoters of this project and received written assurance that CPOs would not be imposed,” said the IFA environment chair.

He continued: “Today, these same farmers feel isolated, with Kerry County Council pursuing farmers through the courts and using all avenues of the state, including An Bord Pleanála, to impose CPOs.”

Cooney’s points were reiterated by Kerry IFA chairman Pat O’Driscoll, who claimed: “Kerry County Council has failed to professionally engage with landowners impacted by this proposed cycle track; and to take on board alternative routing options put forward by farmers.”

Since July, an agronomist has been in place to deal with the concerns of farmers and landowners who will be affected by the project. However, O’Driscoll said that the IFA had requested that an agronomist be appointed as far back as 2015.

“The council ignored this request, and instead ploughed ahead with the use of the ‘CPO sledge’,” O’Driscoll argued.

He claimed that this course of action put Kerry County Council “in breach of the Government’s National Greenways Strategy and questions the validity of the application”.

“It’s about time everyone started to engage and refocus on delivering this greenway in a co-design, collaborative way, rather than seeking to bulldoze it through,” O’Driscoll concluded.