Hegarty spitting feathers over Greenway refusal
The chairman of the Wexford Healthy County Committee, Cllr John Hegarty, has expressed his disappointment and frustration with the decision by An Bord Pleanala to refuse permission for the Curracloe Greenway, which would have seen 10.7 km of cycle paths from Wexford town to the beach.
The councillor lashed out at the 'faceless officials in offices far away from Wexford' who had made decisions that, he said, would have a long term detrimental effect on the future progress of the county. The greenway, he pointed out, would have had a great benefit from an economic, tourism and health point of view.
He added: 'I think it is very convenient for self-appointed 'expert' groups, such as Birdwatch Ireland, to throw out well thought out plans from local authorities because of 'unlikely, unsubstantiated and unproven negative scenarios' and yet they remain a faceless group that don't have to publically explain or stand over their assertions.
'It is long past time where some of these officials in organisations such as Birdwatch Ireland were called to account for their contributions.'
He added that he had read the 93-page report and said it was clear that those making the decision had failed to see the overall picture of what had been proposed by Wexford County Council.
'Instead the decision was based largely around the submissions of Parks and Wildlife, and Birdwatch Ireland. Both of these groups made submissions that suggested, among other things, that the council would not be capable of installing security to close off and monitor the greenway each year, as it was proposed to do, to facilitate the geese during the months from September to April.'
Cllr Hegarty rejected this notion, adding that the groups had also raised points about the dangers of bicycles and pedestrians on the same path, saying that this was an area that was 'not only well outside their area of expertise' but also had been proven to be inaccurate on greenways in other counties.
He added: 'I believe that all of these, and other concerns, could have been raised during the extensive consultations between Wexford County Council and Parks and Wildlife, instead of silence on the issues followed by a very negative submission. At no stage did Wexford County Council suggest negatively impacting on the Wildfowl Reserve. In fact, every effort was made, at every stage, to consult with shareholders and ensure that every precaution was taken to ensure best practise. This was disregarded in their submission.'
He said he believed that council should continue to explore avenues to ensure the completion of the greenway, saying it was to be the flagship greenway for the county.
'We intended to have full design started within one month of a successful decision and work started within six to eight months. It's well accepted that Greenways are a huge benefit for an area and the health benefits both mentally and physical are equally obvious. This was to be an investment in the future of our county.'
He voiced his concern that the Wexford to Rosslare greenway could now be in peril, saying the An Bord Pleanala decision cast a cloud over it: 'I fear similar "concerns" may emerge from the same groups.'
He also felt it was important that people did not lose all opportunity to interact with nature, saying that the plan should surely be to coexist rather than to separate and remove all interaction.
'That would seem to be the view of those charged with overseeing wildlife in the country but I for one have huge concerns about that approach into the future. I believe representatives from Parks and Wildlife should meet with the executive of Wexford County Council to find an agreed solution that will protect our wildlife while allowing this flagship project for the county to go ahead.
'I do believe such a solution can be achieved but only if those negotiating are not starting out with a "no way" point of view.
'Wexford Council have and still are very keen to find a workable solution that will be satisfactory to all involved.'