Kerry County Council has begun to outline its application for a greenway cycle and walkway through small farms and towns along the old railway line skirting the N70 Ring of Kerry in south Kerry, which was announced in 2014, but which has still to be constructed.
The proposed South Kerry Greenway will rise from sea level to 100m over Dingle Bay, providing “an iconic world class experience,” council representatives told An Bord Pleanála’s oral hearing into the planning and compulsory purchase applications. They said it is “much more than an amenity,” and would arrest the ongoing decline of the area.
The council insisted yesterday that it has fully consulted with landowners and is still waiting to hear from 45 out of 160 agricultural holdings which have not completed a survey.
The 32km route seeks to follow the old railway line —apart from a few locations including where houses have been built along the line which was “abandoned” in 1960, and Cahersiveen town, where carriageways are to be upgraded for cyclists and walkers.
Designed for 1,500 cyclists and walkers a day at peak periods like August, the greenway will welcome almost 45,000 people a month, the hearing into the planning and compulsory purchase order process for the greenway in Tralee was told.
A 3m paved carriageway — with verges, five car parks, and toilet facilities — is to be built. Two protected railway structures — Cahersiveen railway bridge and the Gleensk Viaduct — as well as the Drung Hill tunnels, will be repaired.
A bridge and boardwalk are among new structures in the design. Rock armour and sea walls must also be used to halt coastal erosion taking place now, Kerry County Council executive engineer and project manager Conor Culloo outlined.
Mitigation measures by way of screening off the fewer than 30 residential properties affected by the greenway are proposed.
There is ongoing population loss in the four electoral areas through which the greenway will run: all areas including Cahersiveen town are losing population. Since 2006, this part of Iveragh has lost 302, residents while Kenmare and Killorglin have grown and are thriving.
There are now just 469 pupils at the second-level school Coláiste na Sceilge serving Waterville, Cahersiveen, and south Kerry —down from 742 in 1999.
Mr Culloo said:
The scheme has received overwhelming public support which is reflected in the 103 submissions in support received as part of the application process, with one such submission having 1,223 signatures.
An annual minimum payment of €300 is offered as well as €2 per metre for the length running through the greenway.
Up to 120 people attended the oral hearing presided over by planning inspector Karla McBride yesterday, and it is set to continue into next week. The hearing is expected to hear from national farming body, the IFA, whose members fear that the use of the compulsory purchase order instrument for an amenity will set a precedent. Other landowners object to interference with farms and with privacy.