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State withdraws half a million euro grant package over environmental impact


State withdraws half a million euro grant package over environmental impact

Funding of €500,000 to build a recreational bike trail in Connemara has been withdrawn by Government and construction work stalled, after concerns were raised about its impact on the environment.

The Department of Rural and Community Development has confirmed to the Connacht Tribune that an investigation is ongoing into works carried out on behalf of Galway County Council at Booleeshal as part of the Cappahoosh Mountain Trail between Recess and Maam Cross.

Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys, visited the site in 2021 when she announced funding of €500,000 for the project.

But in July of last year, the National Parks and Wildlife Service – from a different Government Department – raised concerns about the work being carried out within the Connemara Bogs Complex Special Area of Conservation (SAC) in Boheeshal.

Ten months on, and the Department has confirmed the offer of funding remains suspended as an investigation was ongoing.

“Based on the circumstances outlined and in accordance with the funding agreement, the applicant, Galway County Council, was advised to cease works on site and the funding offer has been withdrawn until investigation of the matter has been concluded and the issues resolved,” a spokesperson said.

The Department confirmed there were “additional concerns” relating to a forestry road at Cappahoosh and Boheeshal, Recess, which was constructed as part of the project, and which are also under investigation at this time.

“The Department is in ongoing consultation with Galway County Council regarding this matter,” a spokesperson told the Tribune.

Galway West TD Éamon Ó Cuív (FF) questioned Minister Humphreys on the issue in the Dáil last week, when he asked for an update on the project, which included a bike trail and two replacement bridges.

“The proposed works included the upgrading of an existing 10km walking trail at Cappahoosh through Coillte lands, replacement of two bridges along the route of the Western Way walking trail, upgrade of an existing mountain bike trail at Derroura Oughterard, and signage on the Eurovelo cycling route from the Mayo border at Leenane to the Clare border at Kinvara,” said Minister Humphreys.

She confirmed that to date, funding of €314,347 has been drawn down on the project.

Funding was from the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme for the development and enhancement of outdoor recreational infrastructure such as walking trails, cycleways, and blue ways.

As per the statement from the Department to this newspaper, Minister Humphreys said consultation between her officials and the County Council was ongoing.

Deputy Ó Cuív told the Tribune it was disappointing and a pity that the project had stalled.

“It just goes to show you the difficulties we have in Connemara trying to do anything. It’s up to the applicant, and the landowner, which includes Coillte, to come to an arrangement with the NPWS to sort the issue,” he said.

Deputy Ó Cuív added there was a need for quicker processing between State organisations and the NPWS to resolve issues such as this.

Pictured: Minister Heather Humphreys pictured with Cllr Eileen Mannion and Senator Seán Kyne after turning the sod to mark the start of works on the Cappahoosh Mountain Trail in 2021; the €500,000 grant under the Outdoor Recreation Scheme has now been withdrawn.

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