‘No farm or field should be divided to accommodate an amenity project’ – IFA

While the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) recognises that “greenways have an important role to play in promoting economic activity in rural areas”, it has expressed its opposition to the use of compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) in order to acquire land for such amenities.

In a submission made to the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport on its draft code of best practice for greenway projects, the IFA has said the approach taken by greenway development agencies has been “haphazard”.

‘Opposes vehemently the imposition of the CPO process’

The IFA said, in its submission, that it “opposes vehemently the imposition of the CPO process in developing greenways”.

CPOs: Certain statutory bodies can take land or property without consent of the owner, by means of a CPO. They are usually implemented to allow a public infrastructure project to go ahead, such as greenways.

The IFA said it will work with “any and all agencies” to develop a landowner engagement strategy, which will work to avoid the use of CPOs.

The IFA added it is integral to the success of greenway projects that authorities “deliver on the requirement in the National Greenways Strategy” by adopting a “consultative and proactive manner with potentially affected landowners, that is sensitive to their needs, that maximises their support for, and goodwill towards, the proposed greenway”.

“We believe this draft code of practice falls short of this requirement,” the IFA said.

If community projects such as greenways are to become a reality, then the IFA seeks the development of a landowner engagement strategy, which avoids the use of CPOs and commits to a co-design approach with landowners.

“To truly respect property owners’ interests, understand that this is a greenway development, not a motorway, and to deliver on a collaborative co-design approach, it is fundamental that the agronomist is appointed and made available to landowners before route selection.

“This will avoid an adversarial approach and ensure that farmers’ concerns are not an afterthought in the process after the route is selected.”

‘Farming is a dynamic business’

The IFA said it feels that the success of any community amenity project, such as greenways, “stems from the early and ongoing genuine interest of local authorities to fully address the concerns of those directly affected”.

“Farming is a dynamic business, which over the years has seen the number of dairy farms reduce dramatically, while increase in recent years.

“A landowner engagement strategy document must make provision for the reality of landowners changing their enterprise types.

“Additionally, a clause should be included allowing a landowner to claim for loss of development rights where this has arisen due to the project.”

‘You cannot have machinery crossing a greenway without accidents’

AgriLand reported last month that landowners along the route of the proposed South Kerry Greenway are “worried” about the dangers posed by machinery and general farm work.

The South Kerry Greenway project has been controversial for many years. The project was first proposed in 2011. A final decision was due to be made on July 6 of this year by An Bord Pleanála on whether the development will go ahead or not, but it appears the wait is set to continue.

Despite there being several delays and much uncertainty surrounding the greenway, Morgan Lyne, a landowner along the greenway’s route, said there is one thing he knows for certain: “The decision is going to be controversial.

“The planning application itself is one thing, but if An Bord Pleanála gives the green light for the CPO, it’s going to open an awful can of worms,” Lyne said.

After failing to meet agreement with nearly 200 landowners, Kerry County Council decided to acquire 115ac of land by CPO.

Describing the whole process as “tiring”, Lyne added that the “goodwill” of the project has been lost, especially “since the councillors voted in favour of CPOs”.