There has been no record of increase in criminal activity or anti-social behaviour as a result of greenways, an oral hearing into the proposed South Kerry Greenway has heard.
Kerry County Council has begun outlining the case for issuing a compulsory purchase order of the 32kms of lands along the railway line between Glenbeigh and Renard Point, which closed in 1960.
The council and has defended the move to acquire farmers' lands by the CPO mechanism on the grounds of “the common good”.
The South Kerry Greenway was envisaged as “an enabler of economic rural generation”, and developing the old railway line as an amenity trail has been an objective of the Kerry County Development Plan since 2003, it heard.
The feasibility study was carried out independently by South Kerry Development Partnership "with no involvement" by Kerry County Council, the proposers, the hearing was also told.
Of 136 submissions on the CPO, 104 were in support and 27 were opposed while there were five observations.
“It is not credible to suggest there is no local support for the greenway,” project manager Conor Culloo said, referring to over to 1,223 signatures supporting the major infrastructural project.
Greenways have not led to an increase in criminal activity, Mr Culloo said in response to a number of submissions.
The greenway would be permanently fenced in along its length to aid security and no motorised vehicles will be allowed on the route apart from maintenance and emergency vehicles.
The hearing was also told that every effort would be made to “minimise” severance of land and impact on farmland.
In nine of 15 cases, requests for deviations had been granted to landowners and householders.
The Strategy for the Future Development of National and Regional Greenways defines a greenway as a "recreational or pedestrian corridor for non-motorised journeys developed in an integrated manner which enhances both the environment and quality of life of the surrounding area,” the council submission also said.
And in response to one landowner’s objections to the CPO process, Mr Culloo said the recently published Government Strategy for the Future Development of National and Regional Greenways recognises that the objective is “to establish Greenways on a permissive access” basis, where "the landowner (private or public) gives permission for the Greenway to pass over the property” and “where a long term legal agreement will be necessary in order to provide certainty of continuous access to the facility given the very significant level of State funding required in their development”.
However, the Strategy also recognises that such permissive access was not possible in all cases, he said.
The hearing continues.