Planners, not farmers, to blame for Galway greenway impasse – Naughten

In East Galway, Tourism by Denis Naughten

Failure to explore alternative routes economic blow to communities

ATTTT2AOThe approach taken to planning the greenway between Ballinasloe and Galway has led to the situation today where the Government has decided to shelve plans for a cycleway between Athlone and Galway, Denis Naughten TD has claimed.

“Since I was first approached regarding concerns with this proposed cycleway, I clearly pointed out that the route would only be successful if it used publicly owned lands to the maximum extent possible,” explained Denis Naughten. “Since then I have consistently pointed out to Minister Pascal Donohoe to adopt the same approach to routing the greenway West of the Shannon as that taken on the eastern side of the river.

“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 eastern side of the Shannon, where it was determined by publicly owned lands along the canal and a disused railway,” explained Denis Naughten.

“Once the project crossed the Shannon the focus was on the use of private lands, rather than those already in the control of the State. Between Athlone and Ballinasloe significant progress has been made, with almost 90% of this emerging route delivered by utilising Bord Na Mona bogs along with CIE lands, Coillte forestry, Land Commission holdings and an old famine road, which now form the backbone for the proposed cycleway between the two towns.

“However, east of the town of Ballinasloe, where planners seem determined to use the maximum amount of productive farmland as possible, just over a quarter of farmers would accommodate the new greenway. This clearly shows the approach taken between Athlone and Ballinasloe, if extended West, would secure an acceptable route to Galway City but planners continue to ignore reason.

“With Bord na Mona now commencing its withdrawal from peat extraction for energy, it provides further opportunities to access additional State owned lands for the construction of the greenway. There are bogs controlled by Bord na Mona, which are no longer in production or that never went into production, which can assist in facilitating an agreed greenway route through County Galway, and these need to be explored.”

Denis Naughten added: “Instead of shelving the route, and the huge work that has been completed in County Roscommon, it’s about time that we rediscovered disused canals, abandoned famine roads and rail lines like the one in the attached photos, which could help to resolve the current blockage in routing the greenway between Ballinasloe and Galway.

“I believe it is a mistake by the Department of Transport & Tourism to shelve the greenway to Galway or abandon the project in Athlone where it currently ends. I believe this greenway can be a huge economic boost to Ballinasloe and East Galway and I would urge the Minister to listen to those on the ground and go back to the drawing board and draft an alternative, viable route through County Galway,” concluded Denis Naughten.