Dáil debates

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Topical Issue Debate

Greenways Funding

4:35 pm

Photo of Peter BurkePeter Burke (Longford-Westmeath, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I wish the Minister, Deputy Shane Ross, the very best in his new Department. I note that he has been to Ballymahon and Athlone in relation to this project and assessing the viability of the greenways. First, I will focus on the Westmeath section. The Government has commissioned a cycle route from Mullingar to Athlone at a cost of €7 million, which came from the economic stimulus fund. This has been a huge success for the area. When discussing these projects, it is important to use the word "greenways". What we mean by that is that they are suitable for cycling, walking, running and family events, which brings the whole community together. I note that activity has increased sharply along the Mullingar to Athlone greenway and the use has been significant over the last number of weeks. Car parks are being developed at key locations along the greenway to ensure maximum use. However, the Athlone section of the greenway needs an extension from Garrycastle, where the greenway currently ends, to White Gates in Athlone. This is a ready-made project and would have huge benefits in terms of providing access through to the regional sports centre and three schools. It would form part of the regeneration of the area. I urge the Minister, having been to Athlone and hearing first-hand from the officials, to progress this project and authorise funding from his Department. There could be huge community gains.

I will focus now on County Longford. I acknowledge the huge work that Longford County Council is doing in relation to the greenway network. The local authority has a proposal to progress a section from Abbeyshrule to Ballymahon and Killashee. The Part 8 planning permission process has been completed for the section and, as such, I point out that this is a ready-to-go project. I urge the Minister to consider strongly approving funding within the Department for the project. He was also in Ballymahon where I attended a meeting at which he met the officials of Longford County Council. The previous Minister, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, was also in the area where he met with the local authority and public representatives to discuss this worthwhile project. Longford County Council has invested a huge amount of funding in this, €50,000 on two occasions. I also understand that Longford Tourism invested €250,000. A lot of people in Longford are frustrated about the finishing off of the national spatial strategy which precluded the county from applying for a lot of different streams of funding. That was because of the gateway status heretofore. However, with the dawn of the Center Parcs project, the Government has a key chance to invest in County Longford to make it a hub for tourism. That can be developed now. Fáilte Ireland is aggressively promoting Ireland's Ancient East, the Wild Atlantic Way and this is a key project it can get behind in terms of the whole gateway status in County Longford and County Westmeath. In turn, that would improve tourism in the county and have massive economic benefit. It also has great health benefits for the area. Families and communities can gain the rewards from this investment and enjoy the fruits of it.


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