Greenways are traffic-free routes, typically reserved for walking and cycling, that traverse some of the most beautiful and unspoilt landscapes in Ireland. These routes are incredibly popular and provide a unique way of experiencing the Irish countryside.
However, the development of greenways requires careful planning and consultation with landowners, local communities, and other stakeholders to ensure that they are sustainable, integrated with the environment, and enhance the experience of users. This article will guide you through the process of developing a greenway, from the constraints study to construction.
The first step in developing a greenway is the constraints study, which involves mapping out the state-owned lands and stopping points and identifying environmental, physical, and archaeological constraints. The study also highlights potential opportunities and concerns that may affect the design and location of the greenway. During this stage, the public is consulted, and a project agronomist is in place to ensure that the interests of landowners are captured.
Route Corridor Options
Based on the constraints study, a number of broad route corridor options are identified. The route options selection process takes into account the Five S criteria (scenic, segregated, sustainable, strategic, and lots to see and do), as well as environmental, engineering, and economic considerations. The public is consulted again, and an independent agronomist is in place for the project’s duration.
Preferred Route Corridor
After the consultation on the route corridor options, an emerging preferred route corridor is determined. Farmer agronomists and property advisors are available to landowners, and consultation meetings are held with individual landowners. A third public consultation is held, and accommodation works are outlined and discussed.
The next step is to determine the optimum route for the greenway within the preferred route corridor. The Greenway is typically 8 meters wide, but the width may vary from approximately 6 to 10 meters, depending on topography and drainage requirements. During this stage, consultation meetings are held with individual landowners and their representatives. Accommodation works are discussed and agreed upon, and farmer agronomists and property advisors are available to landowners.
The preliminary design is the stage where the horizontal and vertical alignment is established to determine precise land acquisition requirements. The accommodation works are agreed upon with landowners and their representatives, and the voluntary land acquisition process commences.
An environmental impact assessment (EIA), an appropriate assessment (AA), and a Natura impact statement (NIS) are prepared during this stage.
Application to An Bord Pleanála
Once the environmental evaluation is complete, the project promoter submits an application to An Bord Pleanála. The application includes the notice of the making of the compulsory purchase order (CPO), and the voluntary land acquisition process continues.
An oral hearing may be held by An Bord Pleanála to examine issues and concerns raised by persons with objections to or issues with the proposed greenway. The voluntary land acquisition process continues.
An Bord Pleanála either approves, rejects, or approves with modifications the scheme. If the scheme is approved, the voluntary land acquisition process continues, where applicable.
Construction of Greenway
If the scheme is successful at the planning stage, the project promoter proceeds to construction, subject to government funding.
Developing a greenway requires a comprehensive planning process that includes public consultation, environmental evaluation, and the involvement of farmer agronomists and property advisors to ensure that the interests of landowners are considered. A greenway provides an excellent opportunity to experience the natural beauty of the Irish countryside and is a valuable asset to the local community and economy.