Kerry County Council has taken another step towards the development of a cycling greenway on the Ring of Kerry that it hopes will become a major tourist attraction.
The authority has begun a pre-application consultation with Bord Pleanála about its plans for a 32km greenway between Renard Point outside Cahirciveen and Glenbeigh. Renard Point is the departure point for ferries to Valentia Island.
Under the plans for the greenway, the council will build a 3m-wide paved surface with grass verges which will be fenced off from surrounding landholdings.
Where possible, the greenway will following the route of the former Great Southern & Western railway line that ran between Farranfore and Valentia Island harbour before its closure in 1960.
Where possible, all existing pieces of railway infrastructure, including tunnels, viaducts, and bridges, will be repaired and reused. The council also plans to provide facilities at either end of the greenway to include carparks, toilets, and route information signs.
Included in the design of the greenway is a new wall structure to facilitate the route where the old railway line forms part of the main N70 road at Drung Hill. A new bridge will also be required at this location.
The consultation phase with Bord Pleanála comes in advance of the council submitting an Environmental Impact Assessment to the planning appeals authority.
It is understood that the council also plans to acquire some land for the greenway through compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) after it failed to reach agreement with up to 170 landowners along the proposed route.
The move has been criticised by the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) which has called for the removal of CPOs from the process.
The ICSA said farmers were angry that promises made last year by Transport Minister Shane Ross that there would be a proper consultation process with all stakeholders before any future greenways would be introduced, were not being kept.
ICSA spokesman Adrian Kelly said: “Many farmers will have their fields split down the middle under the current plans and the council don’t seem interested in alternative routes that have been offered.”
He said the ICSA was in favour of developing cycling infrastructure in rural areas and described the proposed greenway in south Kerry as “a fantastic idea”.
Mr Kelly also said opposition from farmers to the greenway passing through their holdings was not about money.
“Farmers just don’t want to jeopardise their livelihoods for the greenway,” he said.
Mr Ross admitted last year that the project had experienced significant challenges in terms of costs, planning, and engineering with landowners, which had delayed timescales for delivering the greenway.
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