“From the outset I have called for the route of the greenway to be determined by mapping the existing public lands held by Bord Na Mona, Coillte, the National Parks & Wildlife Service and the former Land Commission. In tandem with that, existing public rights of way that are currently disused should be included on such a mapping project,” stated Denis Naughten.
“Such an approach would significantly reduce the impact of the greenway on productive farms, and can provide a solution that can successfully deliver the Dublin to Galway cycleway through East Galway.
“This formula has already been used on the section of the greenway between Athlone & Ballinasloe where Bord Na Mona bogs, along with CIE lands, Coillte forestry, Land Commission holdings and an old famine road now form the backbone for the proposed cycleway between the two towns.
“While it is now possible to secure an acceptable draft route for the cycleway to the town of Ballinasloe without any need to use Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPO) through the work of officials within Roscommon County Council, in conjunction with landowners and State Agencies, the fear is that if the greenway does not continue west of Ballinasloe that funding will not be made available to bring the cycleway from Athlone where it currently finishes.
“The fundamental problem with the routing of the greenway through County Galway is that a different approach has been taken to the route selection on the West of the Shannon to that taken on the eastern side.”
He added: “From Dublin to Athlone, the route was selected by availing of publicly owned lands along the Royal Canal and the Athlone-Mullingar rail line. However, once the route crossed the Shannon, Fáilte Ireland assessed the line of the cycleway based on scenery and beauty, with no consideration of ownership.
“I have argued all along that there should be a similar approach to the route selection on either side of the Shannon, and I believe that by using such a method, it is possible deliver a route across County Galway, with the consent of landowners and without the need to use CPOs. This would be a huge economic boost for the town of Ballinasloe and many villages in County Galway.
“So rather than scrapping the project because of a flawed approach to the selection of the route, I still believe that my suggested formula can secure a new route between Ballinasloe and Galway which will benefit all the towns and villages along its alignment.
“I now hope that the Minister will listen to reason, and the best way to start this is to listen to the people on the ground. It would be a huge blow to the West of Ireland if this project is lost, just because a State Agency wanted to bulldoze its approach onto local communities,” concluded Denis Naughten.
See Denis question the minister on this issue in the Dail: