High Court ruling on South Kerry Greenway signals shift in perceptions of sustainable travel

The choice of the Excessive Courtroom final week to dismiss judicial evaluations in opposition to the South Kerry Greenway will come as excellent news for Kerry County Council, which is creating the mission, and for individuals who have labored over a few years to have a greenway put in, totally on the route of the previous southern and western railway line between Glenbeigh and Caherciveen. 

The proposed greenway runs parallel to the Ring of Kerry,  a vacationer route of worldwide renown. The Excessive Courtroom choice may additionally have far-reaching results for future greenway and lively journey infrastructure tasks in Eire.

In November 2020, An Bord Pleanála granted permission for a 27km greenway on the route, consisting of a 3m-wide paved floor, which might be shared between pedestrians and cyclists, and 122 various kinds of intersection with different routes. The permission by the planning board was topic to a number of circumstances, together with an ecological pre-construction survey to verify for the presence of protected species, together with the Kerry slug and lesser horseshoe bat, and for these to be relocated to an identical habitat, topic to a derogation licence the place required.

The grounds of one of many challenges included claims that the permission contravened EU Directives on Environmental Influence Evaluation and Habitats. 

The second problem was from landowners whose lands can be compulsorily bought by the council and the landowners raised points concerning the course of surrounding the affirmation of obligatory buy orders (CPOs).

Obligatory buy orders

On the CPOs, in his ruling, the choose rejected arguments of incorrect use of the Roads Act by the council in buying the lands for the mission or that the processes of CPO and growth consent had been improperly mixed and the judgment affirmed {that a} separate order was made in relation to the CPO and that the CPO was made for its personal particular causes.

The choose rejected arguments that the CPO was disproportionate and located the interference with the landowners’ property rights was taken in a lawful method within the public curiosity and that there was no error within the council financial and inhabitants decline within the area in figuring out whether or not there was a public want for the CPO.

CPOs enable sure statutory our bodies, equivalent to a metropolis or council, to amass land or property via a authorized course of with out the consent of the proprietor. Obligatory buy normally takes place to permit public infrastructure tasks thought of to serve a public want and to be for the widespread good. 

CPOs have historically been used for ‘heavy’ public infrastructure tasks equivalent to street, railway, and water and wastewater tasks. Nevertheless, CPOs haven’t typically been used for buying lands for greenway tasks, as this was usually performed by settlement with landowners alongside the route. 

Actually, one of many first and best-known greenways within the nation, the Nice Western Greenway in Mayo, accomplished in 2011, was established largely via entry agreements with the impacted landowners. CPOs are an vital instrument obtainable to statutory our bodies and are meant to permit strategic, public infrastructure tasks to proceed with out undue delay. 

Kerry County Council’s planning software to An Bord Pleanála in August 2018 for the greenway growth included a CPO order to amass lands and referred to the greenway as being a public street. It cited within the order part 68 of the Roads Act 1993, which defines a “cycleway” as a public street or proposed public street reserved for the unique use of pedal cyclists or pedal cyclists and pedestrians. 

Farmers protest against the South Kerry Greenway CPO in Tralee in July 2018. Picture: Domnick Walsh
Farmers protest in opposition to the South Kerry Greenway CPO in Tralee in July 2018. Image: Domnick Walsh

The CPO was subsequently confirmed by An Bord Pleanála of their choice in late 2020. 

The Excessive Courtroom choice affirms the affirmation of the CPO, which suggests the council can now proceed to amass the lands to develop the South Kerry Greenway. The choice additionally affirms that the council was entitled to make use of social and financial elements, equivalent to financial and inhabitants decline within the space, in making the case for the CPO, which can be vital. 

This choice might be intently studied by different councils and statutory our bodies planning to develop greenways or different types of lively journey infrastructure, the place lands could should be acquired. 

Altering perceptions

The choice, one imagines, can even be examined by landowners whose grounds could also be impacted by future greenways.

In broad phrases, it’s typically higher to amass lands by settlement with landowners, however that’s not at all times doable or may end up in vital delays, and that’s the reason CPOs are an possibility for sure public infrastructure tasks. 

The obvious reluctance to make use of the CPO course of for greenways, up to now, may additionally stem from a notion of greenways as largely being about leisure and tourism, and never essentially about assembly the extra practical transport wants of native folks. 

Fortunately, this notion is altering and there’s a rising understanding in society of the potential of well-designed greenways — linked to village and city centres — to assist the transport wants of native folks to go to high school, to get to work, to go to outlets, and so forth, in addition to the position greenways can play in supporting tourism and the native economic system. 

Good-quality greenways and lively journey infrastructure in each our rural and concrete areas can play a significant half in supporting a shift to the usage of extra sustainable journey modes, like strolling and biking, which may have wider advantages for our well being, surroundings, local weather, and economic system.

  • Robert Burns is director of service infrastructure and local weather change, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council

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