Landowners who voluntarily engage with greenway projects will get a new “sustainability payment” as part of a new approach to the delivery of major greenway schemes.
It is a key feature of a new code of best practice for national and regional greenways which has been agreed and which will be unveiled today.
It is understood that the inclusion of ‘voluntary land acquisition agreements’ could virtually eliminate the need for compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) which some farming organisations have railed against.
Details of what payments may be offered to landowners were not made available tonight.
The code was agreed by the Department of Transport, Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA), Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA), Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers' Association (ICSA), the Department of Rural and Community Development, Sport Ireland, Fáilte Ireland, and local authority representatives following two-and-a-half years of consultation in a process overseen by independent chairman, Tom Considine.
Developing such a code was promised in July 2018 when the Department of Transport published its 10-year strategy for the development of “greenways of scale” — national greenways at least 100km long and regional greenways from 20km to 40km long, or which can be extended to connect to a longer strategic route.
Mr Considine was appointed chair of a working group in June 2019 to devise a code to help deliver the projects against the backdrop of concerns about the greenways process and the use of CPOs.
A flagship 32km Ring of Kerry greenway project, announced in 2014, only got planning last year from An Bord Pleanála.
The IFA had sounded a note of caution about an accompanying approval for the CPO by Kerry County Council of more than 220 landholdings across 27 townlands for the project.
In a statement last night, the department said the new code includes “an innovative approach to land acquisition” involving early engagement with land or property owners to facilitate the acquisition of land by ‘voluntary land acquisition agreements’ which will allow them to avail of a ‘greenway sustainability payment’ for their early engagement and cooperation.
Securing the cooperation of land or property owners and acquiring lands by voluntary agreements was inherent throughout the development of the code, the department said.
The code provides detailed information for land and property owners, and outlines the procedures for land or property owners to be treated fairly throughout the development of greenways. It addresses all elements of a greenway project, from inception to completion, with recommendations for each stage from consultation, route options, and design, to reinstatement work and maintenance work.