Public consultation on ‘world class’ Eyre Square to Ballinasloe greenway

The Mayo Greenway is worth millions to the Mayo economy.

The Mayo Greenway is worth millions to the Mayo economy.

Public consultation on the Galway city to Ballinasloe section of the Dublin to Galway greenway is to begin next month with planning permission expected to be lodged with An Bord Pleanála by autumn 2015.

Eoin O’Mahoney from AECOM gave a presentation at the Galway City Council meeting on Monday during which he outlined the details of the preferred 280km greenway route from Eyre Square to Ballinasloe. This project is part of the overall Dublin to Galway greenway which also runs through Maynooth, Mullingar, and Athlone.

According to Mr O’Mahoney the aim is to “develop a world class traffic free trail from Dublin to Galway which is of a scale and singularity that will allow Ireland to tap into the growing tourism market for cycling which has been identified”. He added that the length of the route was very important to serve the needs of the tourism market providing visitors with a holiday that would last a few days.

It is hoped that this project will repeat the success of the Westport greenway which attracted 200,000 visitors last year. Market research conducted by Fáilte Ireland shows that attractive scenery was the most important thing to tourists surveyed, followed by having access to services at least every 15 to 20kms, and a route that is safe and free from heavy traffic.

“The Athlone to Eyre Square phase is very challenging. Identifying the right route is very important,” said Mr O’Mahoney, who told councillors that a number of routes had been considered. The emerging preferred route for the Eyre Square to Oranmore section is a coastal route going along Lough Atalia and the Coast Road. The preferred route for the Oranmore to Ballinasloe section is through Clarinbridge and on to Kilcolgan, Craughwell, Lougrea, Kilreekil, Cappataggle, and Aughrim. It is thought that this preferred route will bring tourists to a number of ruins and sites such as Clonmacnoise, the Battle of Aughrim visitor centre, Oranmore Castle, and Loughrea.

Mr O’Mahoney stressed that talks will take place with affected landowners along the corridor and that public consultation events will take place during October in Galway city, Oranmore, Loughrea, Ballinasloe, and Athlone. This will be followed by a second public consultation event to finalise the route prior to a planning permission application being sent to An Bord Pleanala by the third quarter of next year.

Cllr Frank Fahy (FG ) questioned how the lands would be acquired, if it would be by CPO (compulsory purchase order ) or long term leasing. He also pointed out that Athenry should be included on the route by way of a “looped system” as “it’s an historic town renowned in song and story”.

“This is very good news. The Westport greenway has shown it can be done and that it will have a massive impact on the local economy,” said Cllr Peter Keane (FF ).

In response, Mr O’Mahoney told councillors the Department of Transport had written to the National Roads Authority informing it that CPO was an option if permissive access was not forthcoming and that this would secure the land for the long terms and protect investment. With regards to Athenry, he said: “There is the potential for links to other areas” and a “series of spurs off the main route to deliver nice day trips”.

Councillors also gave approval for Section 85 agreements in relation to two separate greenways for Barna and Moycullen. Galway City Council will now take the lead in the Barna greenway project and develop, in conjunction with Galway County Council, a design for the route from the junction of Fr Griffin Road and Claddagh Quay to the western edge of Barna village. Consultants have been procured and all options are being examined. Pedestrian and cyclist surveys were undertaken on the Prom in Salthill in August and topographical surveys are now under way. It is hoped a preferred route will be selected by the end of this month.

It is the Galway County Council that will take the lead for the Moycullen greenway and will develop, in conjuction with the Galway City Council, a design for the route that will run from the junction of University Road and Canal Road Upper to the centre of Moycullen village. This project will form part of the link for a greenway from Galway city to Clifden. Galway County Council is currently collating all available data to enable design works to commence.

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