Councillors of the Dundalk Municipal District declined the opportunity to vote on the proposed development of the latest stretch of the Carlingford Lough greenway stretching from Omeath Pier to the border with Northern Ireland on Tuesday evening, citing what they perceive to be a lack of engagement and dialogue with affected landowners along the route.
The 4.2km route is funded, the local authority say, with an additional application for funding having also been made to the Special EU Programmes Body for the cross-border project. A decision is due on that later this year.
The Part 8 planning application was brought before the councillors to vote on Tuesday however, at the original suggestion of Fianna Fáil councillor Andrea McKevitt, the vote on whether to pass the Greenway plan was deferred until the end of September to allow for further discussions to take place.
A total of 27 landowners are affected by the proposed build of the greenway which will primarily traverse agricultural land and woodland belonging to a number of landowners and generally be situated between/along the old rail line embankment and the shore/coastline of Carlingford Lough.
The Greenway will connect to existing and potential future sections of the overall cross-border Carlingford Lough Greenway Network. The project proposes a shared walking and cycling greenway ranging in width from 2m to 3m that will be constructed mainly with an unbound granular surface course.
It would also include new cycle parking facilities and trail head signage at Omeath Pier and a 1.2m fence running alongside each side of the greenway.
A total of 21 submissions were made from persons and bodies that included The Irish Cycling Advocacy Network and the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, as well as a number of landowners along the route.
However, councillors aired a number of concerns at the September meeting of the Dundalk Municipal District, namely the issue regarding an apparent lack of dialogue – something the local authority refuted.
“I spoke to the landowners on Saturday and they all complained about one thing – a lack of dialogue,” Fine Gael Cllr John Reilly said. He spoke to one landowner along the proposed Greenway route who said that along with the greenway, there is also an Irish Water Wastewater Treatment Plant to be built on his property, which would leave up to two acres of his land landlocked. “I know they are two separate entities but anybody appreciates that would be completely unacceptable for him to agree to it.”
Cllr Reilly said he would compromise should be have access to his land. He also spoke to one homeowner who’s kitchen window was said to be no fewer than 15ft away from the greenway itself. “The Greenway will be a great tourist attraction but at this present time, I could not agree with the greenway going forward.”
Cllr Sean Kelly said; “I am in support of the greenway but if we don’t have local buy-in, if we don’t have community support, that’s where the problems will come for this project.”
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin’s Antoin Watters aired his concerns over the timeframe and the impact on funding – either passing the greenway proposal but facing a potential legal challenge and deferring it with the potential for a new Part 8 application to be made.
“If a legal challenge is made, I’m led to believe it could take a year for a decision to get to us. This is a vital piece of infrastructure for the north Louth area. There has to be concerns addressed. There’s a lot of issues,” he said.
Fianna Fáil’s Conor Keelan told the meeting that he was aware of an attempt to devise an alternative route and said he was not going to vote for something that was “not right”. He cited “great concerns” and added; “There’s a lot of people in Cooley who feel they haven’t been properly consulted. Without proper dialogue, this will be a problem in the future.”
Cathaoirleach Emma Coffey said that while all councillors were in favour of the greenway, she failed to see counter replies to detailed submissions made as part of the planning process.
“My understanding is we could be bogged down in court proceedings if this is voted on tonight. It seems to me there are too many people who have raised the issue of a lack of communication,” she said.
Louth County Council’s Infrastructure Project Co-ordinator Adrian Kerley said that the council had done everything required of them in regards to liaising with landowners. “I met with all 27 landowners. There was over 100 meetings and three public consultations. We’ve gone above and beyond what is required.”
What is a Part 8?
Fine Gael councillor Maria Doyle replied that there clearly was an issue that needing addressing.
“There’s a difference between a public consultation and actually listening to what people have to say,” she said. “The fact we’ve received so many representations – more than we did for the Park and Share and other projects – shows there is an issue there. Nobody wants to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Sinn Féin councillor Edel Corrigan proposed that councillors take part in a workshop which would allow them to seek clarification as to what dialogue has taken place and what issues remaining outstanding.
LouthNow.ie understands that a group of councillors have taken on to meet landowners on the route ahead of the workshop so concerns can be brought directly to designers and engineers and answers sought immediately.
The workshop is not slated to take place until next week, leaving just three to four more weeks until a deadline when a decision must be made.