Kerry farmers: ‘Yes to greenways; no to CPOs’

A delegation from the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) will meet with Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross this afternoon (Wednesday, June 27) to relay landowner concerns over the controversial development of greenways in south Kerry and Galway.

The IFA group – consisting of IFA director general Damian McDonald, IFA president Joe Healy, Thomas Cooney and Thomas Ryan from the IFA’s Environment Committee, Kerry IFA county chair Pat O’ Driscoll and Galway IFA county chair Anne Mitchell – will call for a number of actions to be taken.

This call for action includes:
  • The immediate publication of the National Strategy on Greenways (which was expected to be published last April);
  • Reiterated calls for Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) to be removed;
  • And a call for an agronomist to be “put on the ground” to act as a negotiator between land owners and the local authority.

It is estimated that the 26km South Kerry Greenway – which aims to connect Glenbeigh and Caherciveen – will be worth an estimated €5 million to the region.

Agronomist

Although Cooney says landowners are not opposed to development of the greenway; he described the current approach to the proposed development as “inadequate and incomplete”.

“Farmers are not against greenways; but they have concerns that their farms will be fragmented. For some small farmers and small land holders down there, with only two silage fields, the greenway is going right up through their fields.

They are offering alternatives such as keeping to the edge of the field or to construct under-passes; but, issues will still arise because each area is different. There need to be solutions that respect the integrity of the farm holding.

“I have met landowners affected by the proposed cycle and walking track and I find it hard to believe that Kerry County Council has yet to appoint an agronomist to professionally work with landowners to address their genuine concerns.

“There is an alternative way to development of greenways and that’s by consultation. This is the way the successful greenway in Waterford was developed and should be the example that the council should follow. Community goodwill is extremely important in projects such as this one in Co. Kerry,” he said.

Community confidence

Cooney will also highlight to Minister Ross that a “code of practice” needs to be drawn up for dealing with landowners.

Image source: IFA Twitter page

He added that many political leaders in Co. Kerry – including independent TDs Michael and Danny Healy-Rae – are rowing in behind concerned farmers.

Earlier this week, Kerry IFA county chairman Pat O’ Driscoll said: “Tourism is a vital part of economic activity in Co. Kerry and we fully support all efforts to build on the successful tourist offering in the county.

However, the state cannot simply divide farms in two, and cut up neighbouring farms, to facilitate a cycle or walking track.

“This approach will not work and is undermining community confidence in the project. Dialogue is better,” he said.

“The message we are receiving from landowners is clear; ‘yes’ to greenways, but ‘no’ to CPOs,” O’Driscoll concluded.