Councillors taken aback by planned CPOs for future projects
Land along new greenways in the county will have be acquired by Transport Infrastructure Ireland before funding is approved, with compulsory purchase orders not ruled out.
Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) took over responsibility for the delivery of all new greenway infrastructure in the country last September, and it will also fund future projects.
The TII is primarily responsible for the delivery of major road network projects in the country, and Paul Hyland of the Mayo Roads Office of Mayo County Council informed members of the Westport/Belmullet Municipal District that it will deliver greenways in a similar fashion.
He said the TII will no longer go down the route of seeking permissive access for land for new greenways and will instead acquire all the land. He also confirmed that if a landowner does not give access for a greenway the TII will seek to acquire it through a compulsory purchase order (CPO).
“Ultimately what we will be doing is acquiring the land, and I want to make that clear,” he told the councillors, who were somewhat taken aback by his revelation.
“The TII will not be funding any greenways unless the land was acquired. It won’t be done by permissive access, it will be by acquisition, whether it is relying on a CPO process or by doing it outside the CPO process.
“Even if there is a particular stretch of greenway and we have identified 200 landowners and all 200 landowners are 100 percent behind it, we will be still acquiring the land,” he explained.
When asked by Independent councillor John O’Malley if it meant that the land on which a greenway runs will be owned by the TII, Mr Hyland replied that it would.
The development of the Great Western Greenway over a decade ago was done when landowners allowed Mayo County Council permissive access to the land, which meant they still owned the land.
Cllr O’Malley said this was the reason why the original Greenway was such a success and expected resistance if the TII go down the road of acquiring land by CPO.
Mr Hyland replied the acquisition process was set out following negotiations between the TII and farming organisations, and landowners will be compensated.
Cllr O’Malley also felt that landowners along the existing greenways will now be looking for compensation if the TII will be paying for the land.
“Do you not see that will create a problem for the people along Greenway that is already there and who didn’t get paid?” Cllr O’Malley warned. “Can they come back and say I want to get paid for mine because they got paid for theres. As sure as you are sitting on that chair that is going to happen. I have talked to some of them and they said if they hear of others getting paid for that they will want the same or they will block the Greenway. It is going to cause a problem, I’m telling you.”
In Mayo, the TII is currently in charge of the Inter-urban Greenway linking Westport, Castlebar and Ballina, as well as a proposed new section of the Great Western Greenway through Newport town, while the tourism section of Mayo County Council will deliver existing projects.
While the expertise the TII brings in delivering major projects has been welcomed by councillors in light of recent controversy over the delivery of greenway projects in Mayo, they all expressed concern over the idea of acquiring land by CPO.
“It [permissive access] has worked so far, and there is no need for a CPO. It just ruffles feathers and gets people anxious. The best way forward is to consult with the landowners and farmers and try to get an agreement and use that process as much as possible.
“The CPO will have to be the final straw because if people are not willing to engage the last thing they want is for their property to be CPOed. Permissive access is the preferable route,” said Erris-based councillor Seán Carey.
Fellow Erris councillor Gerry Coyle said the TII will have to be very careful when talking about CPOs, stating that he hates the word. He insisted the TII should consult with landowners until an agreement is made.
Achill councillor Paul McNamara said the Greenway is being extended into Achill and the last thing they needed was for landowners to hear their land might be CPOed.
Mr Hyland reassured the councillors that they will continue to negotiate with landowners as they did in the past, saying the CPO process will not be used unless absolutely necessary.
“The CPO process is the belt and braces and the last stage we will have to go through if we are not getting permission from the landowners,” he explained.