The Connemara Greenway Project, a scheme estimated to cost €9.2 million and involves 52 kilometres of walking and cycling route from Clifden to Oughterard, could be stopped in its tracks if a disgruntled landower makes good on his vow to go all the way to oppose it.
At a meeting of Galway County Council last Monday a presentation on the Connemara Greenway Project was made with senior engineer Liam Gavin informing councillors that An Bord Pleanála gave approval on March 11 subject to nine conditions following an oral hearing. He added that there 80 landowners involved in the project and that 70 have so far been spoken to with the view of gaining access agreement to the affected lands. Mr Gavin stressed that further engagement with landowners will start again this week and that the council will be doing “all we can to get agreement and work with people”.
However, Cllr Michael ‘Mogie’ Maher informed council members that he was aware of at least two people “who will have a huge effect on this going ahead”. Referring to one of the objectors, Cllr Maher explained that a submission had been made to the oral hearing but that the landowner in question was not happy with the response. “He has three pieces of land, there is no way the greenway is going either side because it’s a swamp. He is frustrated, he hasn’t been spoken to and very annoyed at lot of this went on. He is adamant he will take it all the way,” warned Cllr Maher.
Lauding the project as a “wonderful development” and “one of most exciting projects in this area for a long time”, Cllr Eileen Mannion said that she too knew of some landowners who were not in aggreement. “The Clifden area relies on tourism, it would be a huge boost to the area. The oral hearing was open and transparent. I do hope the project won’t be held up and that an agreement can be reached that will benefit all in the area,” she said.
Cllr Seosamh Ó Laoi said that the project will have a positive impact for the people of Connemara and that the only way for it to go ahead was for consultation with everyone involved to continue.
“I wouldn’t like the message to go out that there has been no consultation,” County mayor Tom Welby told the chamber. “There has been consistant consultatiom. The council want the landowners on board. This is a project that will bring in people to the area for days at a time. There are tourists coming in on buses from Dublin, they are brought in for maybe four to five hours and then gone. It has the potential to re-generate the whole area.”
Mr Gavin concluded the presentation by stating that the project, which will run along the N59 and involves the use of 46 kilometres of old railway lines, is a community lead project involving people in areas from Clifden, to Recess, and on to Oughterard. Construction of the project is planned to start at the end of this year in Clifden, linking the town to Derrynea walkway and is expected that construction of the remainder of the route will continue into 2014 and 2015. Mr Gavin told councillors that a application for funding is currently with Failte Ireland.