Supporting Local News

Calls to scrap Athlone to Galway greenway plan after major set-back

There have been calls to scrap plans for a greenway connecting Athlone to Galway after the consultants behind the project pulled out this week.

Westmeath County Council – the lead local authority on the project – confirmed in a statement that consultants RPS had withdrawn from the project. Among the issues cited as reasons for withdrawing, RPS claimed the project was no longer financially viable.

“Due to the complexity and scale of the 200km preferred route, together with upward market pressures in recent years, RPS have advised Westmeath County Council that the project is no longer financially viable, having regard to the fixed price tender sum for the contract as signed in 2019 and have sought mutual termination under the contract with immediate effect,” a statement from local authority said.

Local campaigners have said such a damning assessment of the project should be enough to call a halt to the project in its entirety.

Tricha Donohue, speaking on behalf of the Kilcolgan, East Galway and Coastal Greenway Action Groups, told the Connacht Tribune that Westmeath and Galway and Roscommon County Councils were reaping what they sewed and had they “properly engaged” with local residents, the complexity of the project could have been much reduced.

“The records will show that we tried to engage with them and to reach compromises. An East Galway Greenway Action Group motion in July 2022 proposed that they look at on-road segregation options,” she said.

Landowners and homeowners directly impacted by the preferred route had been ignored and in some cases, threatened with Compulsory Purchase Orders despite serious concerns about their properties, continued Ms Donohue.

“The plans landowners were presented with were shoddy at best – basically lines drawn on Google Maps that weren’t clear whose land was actually being impacted.

“I don’t think RPS had any idea of the complications they would face, or the opposition that is out there to this,” she said.

Ms Donohue said the public should be informed without delay on just how much had been handed over to RPS thus far, and if what had been contracted and paid for was actually carried out.

Thereafter, she said the concept of the greenway needed to be revisited.

“Is a greenway the most appropriate way to spend this money?,” she said of the funding that had already been ringfenced for the project.

“Surely there are other green options which will benefit both communities and tourists alike, and that are much more viable,” said Ms Donohue, suggesting that better bus services for school children, more active travel investment in rural communities and better public transport infrastructure and services would better serve the people of Galway.

“Meandering greenways that destroy livelihoods and ecosystems cannot be justified for the odd tourist that may or may not come to Ireland to cycle in the wind and rain, and who use major polluters, i.e. planes, to get here.”

Meanwhile, Westmeath County Council has said that in order to “minimise any delay on the project, the parties have now agreed to enter into a process to deal with the issues at hand”.

It said it, as lead authority, would be exploring various approaches to identify the “most appropriate and effective mechanism for progressing and delivering the scheme.”

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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