There were fraught and, at times, emotional contributions at the resumed hearing into the South Kerry Greenway Project this morning.
On Thursday there was an application to adjourn the proceedings to allow a group of 27 landowners to study hundreds of pages of errata and new information on the environmental impact of the project which had been introduced by the council. However, today that application was refused.
Farmers opposing council plans to compulsorily purchase their lands there, have claimed there has been a lack of consultation and the council’s approach has been to “bulldoze” through plans for the greenway since it was announced in 2014.
Senior Kerry County Council planner Tom Sheehy flatly contradicted that.
“Kerry County council engaged and continued to engage right up to the start of this week," he said.
Mr Sheehy said “an example” was four adjacent landowners all in agreement at the start, but after five months of continuous negotiation they could not agree on a route with the council.
Then other landowners with whom they had previously reached agreement changed their minds. The council was dealing with 160 private agricultural landowners.
“It is still the case the majority of the 160 agricultural landowners are in favour. 27 are not. A number of these stated to me “you will never take an inch of my land and you will never get it',” Mr Sheehy said.
However, IFA chair Pat O’Driscoll said a little bit of softness in the council’s approach would have gone a long way. It had refused until late in the day to appoint an agronomist and the council approach had been “heavy-handed” and divisive, he said.
They were given an undertaking by the originators of the project, the South Kerry Development Partnership, there would be no CPO.
However, the council’s legal representative said this was a different body to the council.
The IFA is also questioning whether greenways are included in the definition of public roads under the roads acts, which forms the basis for the application for the project as a whole.
“Our contention is greenways or blueways are amenity crossings through private lands,” Pat O’Driscoll said.
Cahersiveen shoe shop owner Deirdre Garvey said the greenway was “an extraordinary opportunity, for the ordinary people “ of south Kerry but it was not a yes/no Facebook project.
She urged a more “nuanced” approach to accommodate the concerns of landowners and to compensate them properly.
The hearing itself was a factual process but it was very hard to remove the emotional side "when you are speaking of a person’s home place and land,” Ms Garvey also said.
The hearing continues next week, when information on the application to acquire all 222 pieces of land by Compulsory Purchase Order under the powers of the Housing Act will be examined.