Dáil Debates & Questions November 2016
(1) Greenways Development – 2nd November 2016
Dublin – Galway Route development problems.
- Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when he expects the proposed greenway from Dublin to Galway to be completed; his proposals to resolve issues that have arisen among parties along the Athlone to Galway section; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33006/16]
Deputy Robert Troy: The Minister will be familiar with the greenway between Mullingar and Athlone, and into Ballymahon. The Minister visited on a number of occasions. We have always welcomed him because, in fairness, he has made much-needed funding available. As I have always said when raising the need for additional funding in my constituency, the greenway will not reach its full potential until such time as it runs from Dublin across to Galway. There is a major issue between Athlone and Galway in progressing the next phase.
I want to know today how the Minister intends to resolve the issues and concerns of the landowners affected in this area.
Deputy Shane Ross: I seem to be spending more time discussing the issues in Athlone than anywhere else when I am answering questions on this particular body, partly, through no fault of Deputy Troy, because I seem to be familiar with those issues. This greenway is a good litmus test. It is a good question and I will address it.
My Department is developing a new strategy to set out a cohesive and forward-looking approach to the development, funding and promotion of greenways. As part of this process my Department will consult all stakeholders in the coming months. This proposed strategy will include a recommended approach to be taken by authorities and agencies tasked with delivering greenway infrastructure where engagement and consultation with landowners is required and, when finalised, will inform the approach to be taken to progress delivery of the section of the Galway to Dublin greenway between Athlone and Galway.
I was pleased to be in a position to award funding in July this year to a number of greenways where good progress was being made. This included funding for sections of the Galway to Dublin greenway in counties Kildare and Meath. The focus of this funding allocation was for those sections of the Galway to Dublin greenway where planning permission is in place and I expect that by the end of 2017 this will have facilitated progress on construction to the extent that it will be possible to cycle from Maynooth to Athlone entirely on segregated high-quality greenway.
I remain committed to achieving the delivery of this coast-to-coast greenway that will help to position Ireland as a destination for cycling holidays. I understand that the number of tourists cycling while on holiday in Ireland has increased significantly in recent years, from 66,000 in 2009 to more than 200,000 in 2015. While this is a small percentage of the total numbers visiting Ireland, it shows that there is a growing market for cycling tourism and this can be further exploited by a cohesive approach to the future development of greenways which I intend to pursue through the development of a new greenways strategy. I am determined to see this greenway in being and to clear it up.
Deputy Robert Troy: I am glad the Minister has, once again, acknowledged that he is listening to what I am saying on this side of the House and when I requested additional funding for a part of this section, he granted it. This is a national scheme. It is not parochial. It is not unique to my constituency. It is for the betterment of the tourism sector in general. That is why we need it to run from Dublin to Galway and for the project to advance to the next stage.
The question I ask refers in particular to the section between Athlone and Galway because I am very familiar with the funding that has been made available to the other sections of the greenway. There is considerable concern and anxiety about the affected landowners between Athlone and Galway. That is why the project was shelved over 18 months ago, although I acknowledge it was before the Minister’s time. In order to advance this to the next stage, will the Minister and his officials agree to meet a group which has been set up and which is representative of people who are concerned about this section of the planned route? Will he meet and engage with them to see how we can overcome this impasse in order that we can come to an agreement, select a new route and move on so that construction can commence for the final leg of the project between Athlone and Galway?
Deputy Shane Ross: I will consider that. If I think there is any useful purpose in meeting the landowners and any groups involved, I will consider doing so. I am not inclined to get involved in a local dispute if I think it will not do any good. It is very important that we consider, under the greenways policy, what we are going to do here. I understand the problems for landowners and the fact that they feel threatened by the possibility of compulsory purchase orders. My officials and I are determined to promote greenways throughout Ireland. The possibility of a coast to coast greenway of the sort envisaged here is something which we must turn into a reality. We will have to examine all the possibilities. Regarding rerouting, it was probably a mistake made by the Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, initially in the preferred route it put down here and it was probably jumping the gun a bit.
I would be prepared to consider meeting the parties to which the Deputy referred if I thought it would be of any use. However, I will not meet them if I think it will be just another empty exercise. It is very important that this is done. If I see an opportunity for ministerial intervention which would do some good, I will certainly act accordingly. In the meantime, the previous Minister put this project on pause and talks are hopefully going to go ahead which will resolve this problem.
Deputy Robert Troy: This is not simply a local dispute. It concerns a large section of the overall greenway project. Approximately 55% of the route of the greenway between Dublin and Galway goes through privately-owned land, yet no representatives of the owners of those lands were on the steering committee. That was a mistake. They should have been on the steering committee from the outset and had their voices heard. The reason the project has been very successful to date is because of the local buy-in from those in the areas where it has advanced. The Minister of State, Deputy O’Donovan, was in Coolnahay recently and he saw the success of local buy-in to the greenway project and he also saw that when he visited our region. The reason it has been so successful is that State-owned land has been used in those areas. There are alternatives here. I am a strong supporter of this project. I do not want to see it shelved and fall off the cliff, as it were, in Athlone. I want it to go all the way to Galway. Everybody wants to see that but let us bring it to Galway in a manner which can be done in consultation with the various stakeholders that will not impinge on farmers who are going about their daily work on their farms when there are alternatives that could be considered. I ask the Minister – in all sincerity – to meet those landowners, explore the alternative options and see if we can reach a compromise to advance this project to the next stage and have what we all want, a greenway from Dublin to Galway in the very near future.
Deputy Shane Ross: We are probably ad idem on this. We all want to see this greenway developed and brought to fruition. It is just a matter of the best way of doing that. There is a process already being shaped by my Department for the development of greenways and difficulties of this sort. Specifically, my Department will consult all stakeholders in the coming months. This proposed strategy will include the recommended approach to be taken by authorities and agencies tasked with delivering greenway infrastructure where engagement and consultation with landowners is required and, when finalised, will inform the approach to be taken when talks are resumed on the delivery of the section of the Galway to Dublin greenway between Athlone and Galway. It may have been paused but it has not been halted. I can assure the Deputy of that.
Engagement with the Irish Farmers’ Association, IFA, and with other stakeholders will be a necessary part of the process in seeking to resolve the issues of concern which have been identified to date. In addition to identifying and agreeing a preferred route, potential levels of compensation to affected landowners will be examined. The Department will look for guidance to the compensation package put in place to enable the TII and the local authorities to deliver national road schemes.
Dail Debates & Questions October 2016
(1) Planning Issues – Donegal CoCo – 11 Oct 2016
(2) Heritage Sites – Dublin Mountains -18 October 2016
(3) Greenways Funding & Brexit – 18th October 2016
(4) National Parks and Wildlife Service – Fencing 19th October 2016
(5) Rural Recreation Policy – 20 October 2016
(6) Boundary Disputes – 20th October 2016
(7) Mountain Rescue Service – 20th October 2016
(8) Waterways Issues (1) – 20th October 2016
Waterways Issues (2) – 20th October 2016
(9) Tourism Funding – 20th October 2016
(10) Greenways Funding North Kildare -25 October 2016
(1) Planning Issues – Donegal CoCo – 11 Oct 2016
- Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government his views on the various allegations detailed to him by a person (details supplied) in a county council that allege another person was acting fraudulently; his plans to address the allegations; if he is satisfied that his Department and the county council concerned have responded adequately to the very serious allegations raised previously by this whistleblower; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29701/16]
Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government (Deputy Simon Coveney): My Department appointed Senior Counsel on a non-statutory basis on 2 September 2015 to prepare a review report in relation to planning matters in Donegal. This follows the Order made by the High Court on 14 June 2013, quashing that part of my Department’s Planning Review Report (2012) relating to Donegal, arising from a settlement between my Department and the party concerned who had brought judicial review proceedings in respect of that part of the Report.
Senior Counsel was due to submit a review report to my predecessor by 31 October 2015; however, further interactions and clarifications being sought with regard to the scope and nature of the review have resulted in delays to concluding the review. I am currently considering these matters, with a view to providing the necessary clarifications to enable Senior Counsel to complete his independent review as soon as possible within the coming months.
The complainant has recently submitted a separate complaint which is currently being considered by my Department and a separate response will issue to him shortly on this issue.
(2) Heritage Sites – Dublin Mountains -18 October 2016
- Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the status of the purchase by the State of The Featherbeds in the Dublin mountains; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30449/16]
Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Deputy Michael Ring): Contractual negotiations in respect of the purchase of the lands at Glenasmole, which incorporate part of the area popularly known as ‘the Featherbeds’, are advanced and it is expected that they will be concluded shortly. The Featherbeds are an important area for nature conservation and for public amenity. Their acquisition is a sign of the State’s enduring commitment to preserving our natural heritage for future generations of citizens and visitors alike to enjoy.
(3) Greenways Funding & Brexit – 18th October 2016
- Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the status of the north-west greeenway project which has been submitted to the SEUPB for funding under the INTERREG project on a partnership basis between Donegal County Council and Derry City Council; if he is committed to the co-funding requirement for this project; if his attention has been drawn to the status of the SEUPB funding in view of the UK decision to leave the EU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30227/16]
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): I understand that this project consists of a number of Greenways in the Northwest, including Derry to Muff, Derry to Buncrana and Lifford to Strabane. While the project has been the subject of an assessment process led by the Special EU Programmes Body, uncertainty surrounds the availability of EU funding as a consequence of the UK decision to leave the EU.
My officials are in ongoing discussions with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform which, as the Department responsible for overseeing Government’s approach on this issue, are working to address the financial, legal and technical issues that arise to ensure that programme beneficiaries can be made robust offers of funding that will survive the impact of Brexit.
(4) National Parks and Wildlife Service – Fencing 19th October 2016
- Deputy John Brassil asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if she will request that the National Parks and Wildlife Service re-erect boundary fences where the national park backs up onto the properties in an area (details supplied) as there are serious issues with deer entering the properties, which is causing damage and is a health and safety issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31040/16]
Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Deputy Michael Ring): Officials from my Department’s regional staff have examined the area in question. If a contact name and address for a representative of the residents could be provided, my officials will be happy to meet with that representative to discuss the matter.
(5) Rural Recreation Policy – 20 October 2016
- Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if she will consider the introduction of a dedicated funding stream for the purpose of constructing walking and cycling trails in rural Ireland. [31011/16]
Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Deputy Michael Ring): The Rural Recreation Scheme, which falls under my Department’s remit, provides funding for the development and maintenance of rural recreation infrastructure, including cycling and walking trails, in rural Ireland.
I recently allocated €4.5 million to 75 projects around the country under the Rural Recreation Scheme. This funding included a number of walking and cycling trail projects.
My Department also provides funding to private landowners under the Rural Walks Scheme for the maintenance and upkeep of sections of National Way Marked Ways and other priority walks that traverse their lands. It is anticipated that approximately €1. 8 million will be made in payments to participants under this scheme in 2016.
I have secured an additional €8 million in Budget 2017 for my Department’s National Rural Development Schemes, which includes the Rural Recreation Scheme, the Rural Walks Scheme and the CLÁR programme. This funding will facilitate the development of new recreational facilities and the continued maintenance and promotion of existing recreational infrastructure, including cycling and walking trails.
In addition, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport provides funding for a programme of greenways, which benefit both cyclists and walkers throughout the country.
(6) Boundary Disputes – 20th October 2016
- Deputy Clare Daly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No. 15 of 16 September 2016, if she has knowledge of an expert report on land surveying (details supplied); if that report was known to her officials and the Property Registration Authority, PRA, when she provided her reply; and her views on whether practices based on negligent procedures must be targeted for reform. [31214/16]
Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I have been informed by the Property Registration Authority (PRA) that it is aware of the contents of a 2014 Report entitled “Towards the Registration of Defined Property Boundaries in Ireland” which was prepared by the Inter-Professional Task Force on Property Boundaries. The report contains recommendations concerning the existing non-conclusive boundary model which has been in operation in Ireland since 1892.
The statutory functions and procedures of the PRA are set out in the Registration of Deeds and Title Acts 1964 and 2006 and the Land Registration Rules 2012 – 2013. Details of its Mapping Practice standards are available on its website, www.prai.ie. The Authority’s objective is to ensure that all maps lodged for registration comply fully with its mapping standards.
The recommendations set out in Chapter 7 of the 2014 Report advocate a move away from the State’s long-standing property registration model and are at variance with current registration of title policy and existing legislative provisions. The changes advocated in the Report would add significant additional costs to the conveyancing process, have the potential to disturb existing titles to registered property and exacerbate the risk of boundary disputes. Moreover, implementation of such changes could increase the exposure of the State to compensation claims.
The Deputy’s Question of 16 September 2016 raised matters concerning property boundary disputes and as I outlined in my reply at that time, I am advised that the PRA is not aware of any recent increases relating to boundary disputes. While the PRA is aware of the report referred to by the Deputy and other studies, it is notable that no concerns relating to a perceived increase in boundary disputes have been raised via the PRA’s Customer Focus Forum, a forum where the PRA engages with solicitors, surveyors, engineers and architects in relation to all matters pertaining to property registration. I am assured by the PRA that it has in place robust structures whereby the registered owners of properties or their representatives can engage with the PRA in relation to matters pertaining to the mapped representation of the registration.
The Deputy will be aware that a Government decision was taken to merge the PRA with Ordnance Survey Ireland and the Valuation Office to form a new statutory body, Tailte Éireann, for which legislation is currently being drafted. Among the issues to be examined in the context of the merger are the strategic goals and priorities of the prospective merged organisation. It is anticipated that this will provide an opportunity to derive significant added value from the bringing together of the rich data holdings of the three organisations concerned. Any potential changes to the mapping system as well as submissions or proposals from representative organisations could be considered in that context.
(7) Mountain Rescue Service – 20th October 2016
- Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if it is intended to provide ongoing current and capital funding for mountain rescue services to the mountain rescue teams around the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31103/16]
Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Deputy Michael Ring): Mountain rescue services have been funded in the past by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and have also received funding from the Scheme of Support for National Organisation (SSNO) which is managed by the Department of Housing, Planning Community and Local Government.
My Department has now taken over responsibility for mountain rescue services and is currently examining ways to ensure that funding is provided to maintain these important services.
(8) Waterways Issues (1) – 20th October 2016
- Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the status of the restoration of the Ulster Canal; the timeframe for the provision of a jetty by Waterways Ireland at Castle Saunderson, County Cavan; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31330/16]
Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Deputy Heather Humphreys): The reopening of the 2.5km stretch of the Ulster Canal from Upper Lough Erne to the International Scout Centre at Castle Saunderson continues to progress. The project, which comprises three work phases, is being undertaken by Waterways Ireland. Phase 1, the site investigation work, and Phase 2, the dredging of the River Finn and removal of the dredging material, have been completed.
Waterways Ireland has informed me that it is currently completing the tender documentation for the final stage of works to provide navigation to Castle Saunderson. Subject to a successful tender and award process, it is proposed that works would start on site in Spring 2017 with an anticipated 18 month contract period.
I am also advised by Waterways Ireland that it continues to engage with Cavan County Council, which owns the property at Castle Saunderson, regarding the provision of a jetty at that location.
Waterways Issues (2)
- Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when Waterways Ireland will carry out improvement works on the embankments of the river Blackwater in Clonlara, County Clare, between Mount Catherine bridge and the diversion point facilitating the Plassy/Errina Canal, to prevent a reoccurrence of the flooding experienced in this area in 2015. [31335/16]
Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Deputy Heather Humphreys): I am advised by Waterways Ireland that the area referred to by the Deputy is some 710 metres in length but that the organisation’s jurisdiction extends only to some 350 metres upstream of the Blackwater/Canal diversion point. Waterways Ireland undertook repair works to the embankments along that 350 metre stretch in 2013. I am informed that Waterways Ireland is currently working on a separate stretch downstream of the diversion point towards Gilloge Bridge. However, it is not in a position to carry out works outside of its jurisdictional area to Mount Catherine Bridge.
I am also advised that the jurisdictional area has been raised and clarified by Waterways Ireland with the local authority and the Office of Public Works, and that a meeting is taking place on site to further discuss the matter with the local authority this coming Friday (21 October 2016).
(9) Tourism Funding – 20th October 2016
- Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the progress as provided under the programme for Government on €100 million capital investment in the Wild Atlantic Way and greenways; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31373/16]
Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Patrick O’Donovan): The Programme for Government provides that the Government will set aside €100 million in additional capital funding to take the Wild Atlantic Way to the next level, including an Atlantic Blueway route, and the Ireland Way, to invest further in developing a nationwide Greenway network, to double the funding available for the Rural Walks Scheme from €2 million to €4 million, and to increase the number of walks covered from 40 to 80. The commitment in the Programme for Government covers a number of funding programmes and Departments. Consideration of how best to allocate funding for these areas will form part of the mid-term review of the Capital Investment Plan that the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform will be commencing in early 2017.
(10) Greenways Funding North Kildare -25 October 2016
- Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which financial shortfalls have occurred in providing the north Kildare greenway project; if he has received requests for additional funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31479/16]
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): On the 1st July, 2016 I announced the award of c.€2.5m to Kildare County Council and Meath County Council to construct sections of the Galway to Dublin Greenway within Kildare and Meath.
Kildare County Council has been awarded c.€740,000 and I understand that work has commenced on the project and the section of the Galway to Dublin Greenway in Kilcock is expected to be finished by year end.
This funding demonstrates a commitment to proceeding with construction of the Galway to Dublin Greenway and I look forward to seeing the completion of the Maynooth to Athlone section by the end of 2017. This will provide a wonderful facility for all to use and allied with the investment in extending the Royal Canal Greenway to Ballymahon in County Longford will attract a significant number of users.
Dail Debates & Questions September 2016
(1) Greenways Funding – 7th September 2016
- Deputy Josepha Madigan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if the Dodder greenway project will go ahead; the start and completion dates for the different parts of the project; if funding from the National Transport Authority is available or if there have been any delays in this matter; if he will clarify the commitment of his Department to this project; and if he will confirm that funding is available and advise on any delays foreseen. [25747/16]
- Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if there is a funding shortfall for cycling infrastructure projects in the Dublin area; his views on the NTA proposal to request Dublin City Council to postpone design work on the Dodder greenway, the Grand Canal greenway, the Clonskeagh to city centre cycleway and the delay in the Royal Canal cycleway phase 4; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26057/16]
- Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the amount of funding which was withdrawn by the NTA from cycling infrastructure and provided for Luas cross city and city centre traffic management works; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26058/16]
- Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide a timeline for and expedite the completion of a number of cycling infrastructure projects (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26059/16]
- Deputy Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if the NTA has provided him with a new start date for the Dodder greenway, the Grand Canal greenway, phase four of the Royal Canal greenway, the Clonskeagh to city scheme, the Drury Street cycle parking project and the Heuston to Chapelizod greenway, which have all been suspended by the NTA. [26061/16]
- Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he has consulted the National Transport Authority regarding the decision to postpone funding support for the design phase of the Dodder greenway and the design of new cycling routes along the Grand Canal, Royal Canal and the Liffey quays; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26102/16]
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): I propose to take Questions Nos. 1805, 1827 to 1829, inclusive, and 1831 and 1839 together
The National Authority (NTA) is responsible for the development and implementation of public transport and sustainable transport infrastructure projects in the Greater Dublin Area (GDA).
Under the Sustainable Transport Measures Grants (STMG) Programme, my Department provides funding to the NTA for the seven local authorities in the GDA for the implementation of sustainable transport projects such as cycling/walking infrastructure, Quality Bus Corridors, safety, integration and traffic management projects throughout the region. Funding of €23.2m has been allocated to this Programme in 2016. Of this total, I understand that NTA has allocated €14.7m to Dublin City Council to progress 37 different projects including the cycling projects mentioned by the Deputies.
The STMG funding programme is completely separate from the LUAS Cross City Project and I can confirm that funding has not been diverted from the STMG programme to the Luas Cross City project which is being constructed within budget and which is on target for the commencement of passenger services at the end of 2017.
However, I am advised by the NTA that with the technical resource requirements available to the Council, not all the desired projects can be progressed simultaneously. The NTA and Dublin City Council have therefore decided to prioritise the works associated with LUAS Cross City plus a slightly reduced number of other sustainable transport schemes and to pause a small number of other projects (including those mentioned by the Deputies) all of which are at the design stage only. Works will resume at the earliest possible date.
Dail Debates & Questions July 2016
(1) Waterways Issues – 7 July 2016
(2) National Countryside Recreation Strategy – 7 July 2016
(3) National Parks Projects – 21 July 2016
(4) Land Issues – 21 July 2016
(5) Greenways Funding – 21 July 2016
(1) Waterways Issues – 7 July 2016
- Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht her plans for the increased development of blueway trails such as the Shannon-Erne blueway; her views on how these trails can be utilised to attract visitors to rural counties; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19856/16]
Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Waterways Ireland has been actively progressing the development of Blueways as a means to attract new visitors to use the waterways and in response to the growth in demand for recreational activities such as walking, canoeing, cycling and stand up paddle boarding.
The first Blueway was launched in October 2014 on the Shannon and it has been very successful. It links Drumshanbo with Carrick-on-Shannon and comprises a 16.5km paddling trail, a 10km walking trail and a 5km cycle trail. The 10km Camlin River paddling loop is also in operation.
The Shannon-Erne Blueway, which I had the privilege of officially opening on 28 May 2016, links Leitrim Village with Belturbet, Co Cavan and provides a 70km series of paddling journeys, 25kms of walking trails and 8kms of cycling trails. There are also plans to upgrade a further 8kms this year. Based on existing monitoring of visitor usage, Waterways Ireland expects that 100,000 people will use the Shannon-Erne Blueway over the next year.
Further development on the Shannon which is planned for 2016 includes:
– A 20km trail from Carrick-on-Shannon to Boyle;
– A 50km trail from Carrick-on-Shannon to Lanesborough, and
– A 30km looped trail around Lough Allen.
On the Royal Canal and Grand Canals, 45kms and 21kms of towpath trails have been developed respectively. Plans for upgrading the remaining towpaths on these canals are at varying stages and Waterways Ireland is working with various stakeholders, including the local authorities, LEADER groups, the National Transport Authority and the National Trails Office, to progress these developments.
On the Barrow Navigation, Waterways Ireland plans to submit proposals to upgrade the Barrow towpath to the relevant planning authorities shortly. This will enhance the 112kms of off-road trackway from Lowtown in Co. Kildare to St Mullins in Co Carlow.
Clearly, the development of Blueways presents valuable opportunities for rural communities to attract more visitors. Their value lies not only in the recreational opportunities that they offer but also in their potential to stimulate local businesses and regenerate local areas. Blueways also provide an effective model for partnership between the private, community and voluntary sectors and relevant State bodies.
I am strongly of the view that the new configuration of my Department will offer significant opportunities for enhanced partnership on these matters and I look forward to working with my colleague, Minister of State Michael Ring, to that end.
(2) National Countryside Recreation Strategy – 7 July 2016
- Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht her views on how the rural walks scheme can be used to attract visitors and boost tourism in rural counties; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19846/16]
Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Michael Ring): The permissive access model currently used as part of the implementation of the National Countryside Recreation Strategy for the development of greenways and walkways in Ireland has led to the successful delivery of over 880 walking, cycling, and equestrian trails, which are all listed on the Irish Trails Register maintained by the National Trails Office of Sport Ireland.
Figures produced by Fáilte Ireland demonstrate that, in 2014, close to 1.2 million overseas visitors coming to Ireland engaged in hiking/walking. This is an increase of 451,000 visitors on the 2013 figures. The total spent in the Irish economy by those visitors in 2014 was in the region of €915 million, an increase of some €265 million on the 2013 expenditure. These figures do not include visitors or related spend in the economy by domestic visitors engaging in hiking or walking.
These statistics demonstrate that hiking and walking on all trails, not just those covered by the Walks Scheme, are contributing to the Irish economy in attracting overseas visitors. The statistics also show how important the Walks Scheme is as its aim is to maintain and develop all of its walks to ensure a positive visitor experience for those using the walks, citizens and visitors alike.
The Walks Scheme is a maintenance-based payment scheme for landholders who maintain sections of trails that traverse their lands. The scheme is administered by 16 Local Development Companies on behalf my Department. There are currently 39 National Way Marked Ways and other Priority Loops covered by the scheme.
There is a commitment in A Programme for a Partnership Government to expand the Walks Scheme and I will be engaging with my colleagues in Government and with the Oireachtas to seek to advance this commitment in the context of the forthcoming estimates and budgetary processes. I am convinced that such an expansion would boost the number of high quality walks available to citizens and visitors alike, thereby increasing the attractiveness of the walking experiences available throughout Ireland.
(3) National Parks Projects – 21 July 2016
- Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if she will consider entering into talks with NAMA regarding the 4,000 acres in Glenasmole with a view to developing it into a national park. [23902/16]
Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Michael Ring): Following a meeting in February 2014 between my predecessor and Mountaineering Ireland, at which the question of lands near Wicklow Mountains National Park held by the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) was discussed, officials from my Department approached NAMA to discuss those lands, with a preliminary meeting held in April 2014. On foot of the meeting, my Department expressed an interest in acquiring the lands in question in early May.
NAMA responded by indicating that its Board had recommended that NAMA engage, where feasible, with other State bodies, where that body has expressed an interest in acquiring a property for a purpose specifically linked to its statutory function. NAMA further indicated that an independent market valuation should be sought and that there are occasion where an open marketing exercise may be required.
Between May 2014 and September 2015 there was intermittent contact with NAMA by officials from my Department. Discussions in August and September 2015 related to the valuation of the land in question.
I understand there have been recent media reports regarding the proposed sale by NAMA of 4,900 acres at Glenasmole, incorporating part of the area popularly known as ‘the Featherbeds’. I also understand a separate commercial property management firm is handling the sale and has advertised the property for sale by private treaty.
The majority of the land in question is designated as a Special Area of Conversation (SAC) and Special Protection Area (SPA). Given its proximity to Wicklow Mountains National Park and its importance for nature conservation as an SAC and SPA, it is clear that it would make an important addition to the National Park. However, given the scare resources available for capital investment in our National Parks and Nature Reserves, I am mindful of the need to focus on the core responsibilities relating to the management of the Parks and Reserves.
(4) Land Issues – 21 July 2016
- Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the authority or organisation that has responsibility for the rivers in Dublin city and county; the body with responsibility for physical boundaries such as river banks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23791/16]
Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Seán Kyne): My Department holds no function in relation to this question. It would be a matter in the first instance for the landowner.
Inland Fisheries Ireland, which comes under the aegis of my Department, is the state agency responsible for the protection, management and conservation of Ireland’s inland fisheries and sea angling resources. Should the Deputy have a particular issue relevant to IFI, I can have them contact him directly.
(5) Greenways Funding – 21 July 2016
- Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the funding applied for Greenways; details of the locations; details of funding granted; the locations since 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23980/16]
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): The following tables indicate the greenway projects funded by my Department since 2011, their locations and the funding allocated in respect of each project. Details of the applications received for Greenway funding since 2011 are being compiled and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possib
Greenway/Cycling project funded
|National Cycle Network Funding Programme 2012-2013 – Projects funded|
|Year||Local Authority||Project||Funding awarded – €|
|2012||Carlow/Kilkenny||44.5km cycleway linking Carlow to Paulstown to Kilkenny.||463,000|
|Clare||4km cycleway linking Ennistymon to Lahinch||400,000|
|Donegal||195.5km cycle route between Donegal Town and Newtowncunningham||497,000|
|Donegal||195.5km cycle route between Donegal Town and Newtowncunningham||497,000|
|Fingal||3km cycle link from Ashtown to Blanchardstown||600,000|
|Kerry||1.2km extension to existing cycle/pedestrian route from Killarney to Fossa||143,000|
|Limerick||3km extension to the Great Southern Trail (GST) from Abbeyfeale Town to Rathoran.||290,00|
|Louth||6.3km greenway from Omeath and Carlingford||678,000|
|Mayo||8.8km greenway from Castlebar to Turlough Park||725,000|
|Meath||3km cycle/walkway from Drogheda Ramparts to the Oldbridge Estate entrance.||500,000|
|Monaghan||4.5km cycle route through Monaghan Town||471,000|
|North Tipperary||2.8km extension to the existing N52 walkway/cycleway||335,000|
|Offaly||16.8km of dedicated cycle lanes along the R420 from Tullamore to Moate||400,000|
|Roscommon||20km of dedicated cycle lanes along the former N6 between Athlone and Ballinasloe (funding withdrawn due to inability to deliver project)||470,000|
|Waterford City||3.2km cycleway between Tramore and Waterford City||289,000|
|Waterford Co||6.4km cycleway between the City Outer Ring Road to Tramore||310,000|
|Westmeath||11.3km upgrading of canal tow path from Boardstown Bridge to county Boundary||451,000|
*Outside of the NCN Programme Kerry Co Council received funding of €200,000 in 2012, approved in 2010, to complete the Tralee/Spa/Fenit 1.8km cycleway.
|National Cycle Network Funding Programme 2014-2016 – Projects funded|
|2014||Kerry||Phases 2 & 3 of the Glenbeigh to Reenard Trail from Glenbeigh to Cahirciveen (26km)||3,458,281|
|Galway||Galway to Moycullen Greenway (12.4km)||2,000,000|
|Waterford||Clonea to Durrow Greenway (7.2km) (completed)||897,739|
|Reallocation of NCN Funding from current programme – July, 2016|
|2014||Kildare/Meath||Maynooth to the Westmeath County Border (38km) (part of the Dublin to Galway Greenway)||2,533,000|
|Longford||Abbeyshrule to Longford Bridge, Ballymahon (15.2km) (extension to Mullingar to Abbeyshrule Greenway)||513,000|
|Westmeath||Garrycastle to White Gates (2.2km) (extension to the Mullingar to Athlone Greenway)||496,187|
|Stimulus Funding 2014 – Projects funded|
|2014||Clare||Phase 1 of the West Clare greenway from Ennis to Ballymacquiggan (5km)||400,000|
|Kerry||Phase 1 of the Glenbeigh to Reenard Trail from Cahirciveen to Reenard Point (Fertha Greenway) (5.7km)||450,000|
|Kerry||Tralee Fenit Trail – Phase 1 Rock Street to Casement Station (.42km)||345,000|
|Kildare||Arthur’s Way Greenway – Leixlip to Oughterard via Celbridge/Castletown (25km)||311,000|
|Limerick||Patrickswell to Limerick City cycleway (4.14km) #||420,000|
|Mayo||Monasteries of the Moy (14km) – part funding of overall project||250,000|
|Roscommon||Boyle to Lough Key Forest Park (24km) – part funding of overall project||250,000|
|Tipperary||Clonmel to Carrick-on-Suir Greenway (20km)||1,900,000|
|Waterford||Kilmeaden to Bilberry Greenway (20km)||1,100,000|
|Westmeath||Athlone to Mullingar Greenway (40km)#||4,000,000|
|Westmeath||Coolnahay to the County Boundary (14.4)#||700,000|
#additional funding awarded to Kildare (104k); Limerick (155k); and Westmeath (3.2k)
Dail Debates & Questions March – June 2016
(1) Tourism Promotion – 22 March 2016
(2) Wild Atlantic Way Project – 22 March 2016
(3) Inland Waterways By-laws – 22 March 2016
(4) Commonage Framework Plans (1) – 14/4 2016
(5) Commonage Framework Plans (2) – 14/4/ 2016
(6) Foreshore Issues – 14 April 2016
(7) Rights of Way Registration – 14 April 2016
(8) Mountain Access Schemes – 26 April2016
(9) Farm Assist Scheme Data – 4 May 2014
(10) Mountain Access Schemes (1) 4 May 2016
(11) Mountain Access Schemes (2) 4 May 2016
(12) Greenways Funding – 17 May 2016
(13) Wild Atlantic Way Project – 17 May 2016
(14) Rights of Way Provision – 18 May 2016
(15) National Monuments – 31 May 2016
(16) Greenways Funding – 15 June 2016
(17) New Planning Procedures -22 June 2016
(1) Tourism Promotion – 22 March 2016
- Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to ensure the development of new activity-tourism infrastructure in the north west; if exciting activity-tourism projects such as the Sligo greenway and Coolaney National Mountain Bike Centre will attract new tourists to the region; if the north west region can become a major activity-tourism hub; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4842/16]
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): Sligo County Council submitted a proposal to my Department for funding under the National Cycle Network Funding Programme 2014-2016 for the Sligo section of the Sligo Leitrim and Northern Counties Greenway. While funding was not awarded on that occasion I understand that in the interim Sligo County Council have been developing the planning and environmental elements associated with this proposal in order to be best placed under future funding calls.
As regards funding for cycling infrastructure, to date this has been focussed on Greenways and urban infrastructure. Funding may be available through EU funded schemes for other types of cycling tourism measures and contact should be made with the North and Western Regional Assembly for advice in this regard.
In regard to the development of activity tourism and the development of activity tourism infrastructure, these are operational matters for Fáilte Ireland. Accordingly, I have asked the agency to reply directly to the Deputy with further detail. Please contact my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.
(2) Wild Atlantic Way Project – 22 March 2016
- Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the amount spent to market the Wild Atlantic Way internationally each year since its inception; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5025/16]
- Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the amount spent in each year to market the Wild Atlantic Way internationally since its inception as an attraction to enjoy during the winter months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5026/16]
- Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on the enormous potential to market the Wild Atlantic Way internationally as an all year round attraction to help boost our winter tourism industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5027/16]
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): I propose to take Questions Nos. 578 to 580, inclusive, together.
The autumn/winter season is already recognised as being of significant importance for the tourism industry in Ireland as it usually yields as much as 30% of our annual overseas tourism business. Figures published last week by the CSO show that the number of overseas visits to Ireland grew by 17.8% between October and December 2015, when compared with the same period in 2014.
Tourism Ireland’s 2016 business plan includes objectives to highlight unique and motivating iconic visitor experiences, including the Wild Atlantic Way, and to present the island of Ireland as an exciting destination to visit in the off-peak season.
Decisions on how the Wild Atlantic Way is marketed overseas is a matter for Tourism Ireland Limited, and in the case of the domestic tourism market, it is a matter for Fáilte Ireland. These decisions are not subject to my approval. Accordingly, I have also referred the Deputy’s Parliamentary Questions to both agencies for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within ten working days.
(3) Inland Waterways By-laws – 22 March 2016
- Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if she will support the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland and its call for new canal by-laws via a dedicated canal Bill (details supplied) as our canals are an important amenity which is part of our heritage and can be a great source for tourism; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [5332/16]
Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Heather Humphreys): The Heritage Bill 2015, published by my Department in December last, included provisions to amend the Canals Act 1986 so as to allow for the subsequent making of bye-laws to regulate boating on the canals and to manage the use of the canals. The 1988 Canal Bye-Laws have been in force for some 27 years and need to be revised to reflect changes in the use of the canals over the intervening years. The proposed changes would allow Waterways Ireland to make new bye-laws to proactively manage the Royal and Grand Canals, as well as the Barrow Navigation.
The proposed amendments to the Canals Act 1986 were designed to provide for the regulation of the canals; the issue of permits or licences to regulate the use of boats on the canals and on canal property; the regulation of the type or class of boat which may be used on the canals; the regulation of berths and moorings and the placing of buoys on the canals or other canal property; the regulation and care of animals on the canals and other canal property; the appointment and powers of authorised officers and the service of directions.
Our waterways make a vital contribution to tourism, attracting visitors from around Ireland and from abroad. With approximately 500 boats on the three systems, Waterways Ireland is seeking to encourage more visiting boats onto the waterways. However, the existing bye-law regime is not conducive to advancing this objective. The proposed legislative changes were intended to encourage tourism and leisure craft users by supporting the investment already made by Waterways Ireland in new infrastructure and facilities along the canals and by enhancing Waterways Ireland’s ability to manage, maintain and develop the canals as a vibrant recreational and tourist amenity for all waterway users.
A decision on whether to proceed with the Heritage Bill 2015, which has passed Second Stage in Seanad Eireann
(4) Commonage Framework Plans (1) – 14 April 2016
- Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the method of selection of agricultural planners to prepare plans for commonages under the green low-carbon agri-environment scheme; the number of planners he has appointed; their names and the amount of commonage allocated to each planner; if he agreed rules or guidelines regarding the fees that could be charged; if there is a mechanism whereby farmers in a commonage may select an alternative planner to the one selected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6864/16]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): My Department issued a circular to all commonage advisors detailing the process for assigning commonage advisors to individual commonages.
Applications by advisors were required to be accompanied by the signatures of shareholders supporting their application for assignment. In cases where more than one advisor applied, appointments were made in accordance with the advised criteria. When appointments were made the successful advisor was notified in writing and where more than one advisor had applied unsuccessful candidates were also notified and given a right of review if dissatisfied.
Where no commonage advisor expressed an interest in a particular commonage, a further circular issued on 5 August again inviting expressions of interest by 20 August. Where no application was received on foot of this second circular my Department proceeded to nominate and assign advisors.
My Department did not set any rules or guidelines in relation to fees but the GLAS payment to farmers with commonage was increased from €79 per hectare to €120 per hectare to take account of additional costs to the farmer.
The application and selection process required the support of shareholders and the governing circular provided that in cases where there was serious disagreement with the advisor appointed the matter could be referred to the Commonage Implementation Committee.
The detailed information requested on the appointment of Advisors to individual commonages has been forwarded directly to the Deputy concerned.
(5) Commonage Framework Plans (2) – 14 April 2016
- Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of agricultural planners he has selected to prepare commonage plans in Connemara under the green low-carbon agri-environment scheme; the number of commonages and hectares allocated to each planner; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6865/16]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): My Department has compiled a database of Commonages throughout the country, which is publicly available on the Department’s website and is regularly updated. Information on the commonages can be freely obtained from this database, which can be accessed through the following link: http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/farmerschemespayments/glas/glastranche1/commonagedataforglas/.
(6) Foreshore Issues – 14 April 2016
- Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice and Equality to examine the maps (details supplied) and outline why Ordnance Survey Ireland adjusted the shoreline and foreshore in 2014 from its original state in 1912, moving it several hundred feet into the lake and effectively giving a private company property that should belong to Waterways Ireland; and when, why and by whom this was done and sanctioned. [6329/16]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSI) is the national mapping agency of Ireland. It is the State body responsible for the official, definitive surveying and topographic mapping of the Republic of Ireland. As this mapping is topographic, it only represents the physical features on the ground at the time of the survey. The mapping details supplied refer to the physical features of a section of Killinure Lough, County Westmeath. These particular features were captured by Ordnance Survey Ireland in 2004 and accordingly updated.
In 1985, the then Chief Boundary Surveyor delegated authority for minor boundary changes to the Ordnance Survey. It was within this delegation of authority that the townland modifications at Killinure Lough took place. However, I am advised by Ordnance Survey Ireland that acting on legal advice received from the Office of the Attorney General, the original cartographic representation of the townlands affected by the lake line change is being re-established as per the original Boundary Register and Sketch Maps archived in the National Archives.
I should clarify that Ordnance Survey Ireland maps never indicate legal property boundaries, nor do they show ownership of physical features. Although some property boundaries may be coincident with surveyed map features, no assumptions should be made in these instances and consequently it is not possible to identify a legal
(7) Rights of Way Registration – 14 April 2016
- Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry who has to register uncontested rights of way; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6683/16]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I am advised by the Property Registration Authority (PRA) that based on the information supplied, the case in question would appear to relate to a potential registration of an easement [right of way] acquired by prescription under Section 49A of the Registration of Title Act 1964 as inserted by Section 41 of the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2011.
Rule 46 of the Land Registration Rules 2012, as amended by the Land Registration Rules 2013, provides that an application under Section 49A may be made in Form 68 of the said Rules. Alternatively an application can be made to court under Section 35 of the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2016.
The PRA’s practice in relation to such an application and in relation to the mapping of same is set out in its practice directions “Easements and Profits à Prendre Acquired by Prescription under Section 49A” and “Mapping Practice” available on the PRA website www.prai.ie .
The PRA fee for an application to register such an easement is prescribed by the Land Registration (Fees) Order 2012 as €130 and is not dependent on the number of folios that comprise the servient tenement (i.e. the land over which the easement exists).
(8) Mountain Access Schemes (1) – 26 April2016
- Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the steps taken to ensure continued open access to mountains and other areas for hill climbers and for general recreational use on such lands in view of the recent court case where €40,000 damages was awarded against the National Parks and Wildlife Service; if he has discussed this matter with the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht; if a memorandum will be brought to Government in relation to this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8122/16]
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Ann Phelan): As the Deputy will be aware, my Department operates a Walks Scheme covering certain National Way Marked Ways and Trails, which are accredited by the National Trails Office. Insurance arrangements are in place that indemnify private landowners whose lands are traversed by those trails.
In relation to facilitating access to mountains and upland areas for recreational purposes, my Department is continuing to liaise with the State Claims Agency regarding the development of a National Indemnity Scheme for private landowners, who facilitate access to their lands in upland areas for recreational purposes. The purpose of the Scheme is to indemnify participating private landowners against civil suits .
Regarding the recent Court proceedings referred to by the Deputy, I have not had discussions with the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in relation to the case. However, I am advised that the Minister has appealed the matter to the High Court.
(9) Farm Assist Scheme Data – 4 May 2014
- Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection the number of persons in receipt of farm assist, by county, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8808/16]
Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): The information requested by the Deputy is detailed in the following tabular statement.
|Recipients of Farm Assist by county at 31 March 2016|
(10) Mountain Access Schemes (2) 4 May 2016
- Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if compensation is available to persons (details supplied) in County Kerry who allow hill walkers to use trails on their lands; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8906/16]
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Ann Phelan): My Department administers a Walks Scheme, which provides modest payments to landowners to maintain sections of walking trails that traverse their lands. It does not affect their property rights and is not a payment for access purposes. Due to budgetary constraints it has not been possible to expand the existing Walks Scheme in recent years to include additional walks such as the one referred to in the details supplied. However, there continue to be 39 trails covered by my Department’s Walks Scheme and in 2015 payments to participants exceeded €1.8m. The number of participants currently on the Scheme stands at approximately 1,900.
(11) Mountain Access Schemes (3) 4 May 2016
- Deputy Declan Breathnach asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if all community and voluntary groups which have undertaken work on land and property belonging to a local authority or the State will be indemnified against any possible claims where agreement has been reached within these bodies, given recent claims against the National Parks and Wildlife Service. [8973/16]
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Ann Phelan): Under the Walks Scheme, managed by my Department, all landowners and occupiers whose property or land is traversed or adjoins a recreational trail that has been inspected and approved by the National Trails Office, are indemnified by a commercial company.
In relation to the Deputy’s specific query, any community or voluntary group which has undertaken work on land or property belonging to a local authority or other State body, should liaise directly with the local authority or State body in question and may be required to have public liability insurance in place.
(12) Greenways Funding – 17 May 2016
- Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when he will open the €100 million greenway fund for applications from greenways, such as the Sligo Greenway which will be part of the Western Railway Greenway; the timeline for allocating the fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9681/16]
- Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if the Sligo Greenway, which aims to protect the rail line from Bellaghy to Collooney in County Sligo for future use whilst also providing a vital item of tourism infrastructure for the north west, should be funded under the €100 million greenway fund with regard to the Western Rail Corridor, as contained in the new programme for Government, and given that he will shortly begin to implement an independent cost benefit analysis and review for the Western Rail Corridor between Athenry in County Galway and Claremorris in County Mayo for commuter and freight use; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10232/16]
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): I propose to take Questions Nos. 1123 and 1140 together.
I have yet to decide on how the €100 million earmarked for Smarter Travel projects in the Programme for Government is to be invested. However, I am confident that investment in greenways will continue given the economic and social benefits they bring to communities, particularly those in rural areas.
As the Deputy will be aware, funding from my Department for the delivery of greenways is awarded to local authorities by way of a competitive process. In advance of future funding calls it would be important for interested parties and/or local authorities with a project in mind to endeavour to have all statutory requirements, land ownership/access issues etc. in place so as to be well placed to compete for any funding which comes on stream over the coming years.
(13) Wild Atlantic Way Project – 17 May 2016
- Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the cost-benefit analysis or business case appraisal he has undertaken prior to the announcement of €100 million for the Wild Atlantic Way; the conclusions and recommendations of these; if he will provide an indicative list of the type of projects that he and Fáilte Ireland expect to be funded by this allocation; the timeframe in this regard; and the boost in tourism numbers, revenues and employment he expects from this funding allocation. [10032/16]
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): The Programme for Government provides that the Government will seek to set aside €100 million in additional capital funding to take the Wild Atlantic Way to the next level, including an Atlantic Blueway route, and the Ireland Way, and to invest further in developing a nationwide Greenway network. As part of this additional funding, the Government also proposes to double the funding available for the Rural Walks Scheme from €2 million to €4 million to increase the number of walks covered from 40 to 80.
The Programme for Government recognises the achievement of the Wild Atlantic Way and other tourism initiatives in revitalising tourism and demonstrates the Government’s commitment to achieving the tourism policy goals set for 2025. These include increasing revenue from overseas visitors to €5 billion (net of inflation), growing employment in the tourism and hospitality sector to 250,000 and increasing the number of overseas visits to Ireland to 10 million per year.
Public expenditure on tourism initiatives is undertaken by the tourism agencies, i.e. Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland in accordance with public financial procedures. Cost benefit analyses, business cases, and project plans would tend to be undertaken on a project by project basis, rather than at the level of a Programme for Government.
(14) Rights of Way Provision – 18 May 2016
- Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide details of the directive sent to local authorities in respect of the inclusion of public rights of way in development plans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10719/16]
Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Simon Coveney): Section 7 of the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2010 requires the inclusion of a mandatory objective in an area’s development plan for “the preservation of public rights of way which give access to seashore, mountain, lakeshore, riverbank or other place of natural beauty or recreational utility, which public rights of way shall be identified both by marking them on at least one of the maps forming part of the development plan and by indicating their location on a list appended to the development plan”.
In October 2012, my Department issued Circular Letter PL09/2012 to planning authorities reminding them of their statutory obligation under planning legislation in this regard.
In August 2015, my Department issued a further Circular Letter PL 5/2015 to planning authorities which provided clarification between the status of permissive trails as distinct from public rights of ways.
Public rights of way are deemed accessible at all times by members of the public. Members of the public, such as recreational users, entering onto these designated routes do so by right and not by permission. Many of these rights of way are indicated by local authorities in their development plans. Many other walking routes exist on a permissive access basis, for example “The National Waymarked Way Network” . These routes are permissive in nature and, as distinct from public rights of way, consent can be withdrawn anytime by the landowner.
Circular Letter PL 5/2015 further advised planning authorities on the degree to which the existence of such permissive trails, given their status, should be taken on board in arriving at decisions on planning applications and appeals.
(15) National Monuments – 31 May 2016
- Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of visitors to each of the 780 national monuments that are open to visitors managed by the OPW for the most recent year available and to provide a breakdown of the list by visits to each site. [13465/16]
Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy SeánCanney): The Office of Public Works (OPW) has responsibility for the day-to-day running of all National Monuments and National Historic Properties (i.e. those in State ownership or guardianship). It has a conservation remit to maintain the National Monuments in State care and an active role in facilitating presentation and public access under the terms of the National Monuments Act 1930 which makes provision for the protection and preservation of National Monuments including the admission of the public to National Monuments.
The approach of the OPW Heritage Services is essentially conservation oriented with the bulk of resources dedicated to this end. The vast majority of properties in State care are presented to the public without specific visitor facilities such as a guide service. Public access to heritage attractions has a high priority and much effort has been made to improve access and information at all built heritage sites.
There are a total of almost 1,000 individual National Monuments in State care at approximately 768 locations around the country. These are managed and maintained by the OPW and include both sites which are in full State ownership and others which are privately-owned but where Guardianship arrangements exist and where the OPW provides maintenance services. A small number of sites have National Monuments which are State owned and others which are privately held at the same location.
As a general policy, the OPW facilitates visitor access to as many National Monument sites as possible. However, access is not always feasible because of a range of issues including physical location, risks associated with dangerous structures and restrictions imposed in some cases by landowners who may wish to limit access, either temporarily or more longer term, by reason of accident risk, livestock etc. The OPW would estimate that approximately 10% of the National Monument sites in its care are not accessible at any given time.
As part of its remit, the OPW also provides enhanced visitor access, together with guide facilities in some cases, at approx. 70 of the more prominent visitor locations nationally. These include many of the most iconic heritage sites in the country such as Kilmainham Gaol, the Rock of Cashel, Newgrangeetc as well as a number of smaller, less well known properties. In general visitor numbers are only recorded at those sites where there is a guide service. However, there are a small number of sites where footfall counters have been installed. The following table shows all visitor numbers available for 2015.
2015 Visitor Numbers
|Battle of the Boyne/ Oldbridge Estate||58,053|
|Castletown House & Parklands||297,691|
|Corlea Trackway Visitor Centre||5,331|
|Famine War House*||2,825|
|Glebe House and Gallery||23,085|
|Glendalough Visitor Centre||79,182|
|Grianan of Aileach*||107,968|
|Hill of Tara*||159,686|
|J F Kennedy Arboretum||96,910|
|National Botanic Gardens||553,348|
|Newmills Corn and Flax Mills||4,173|
|Phoenix Park Visitor Centre||141,582|
|Reginald’s Tower – French Church||3,212|
|Rock of Cashel||300,749|
|St. Audoen’s Church||33,092|
|St. Mary’s Church, Gowran||2,634|
|* New passive footfall counter installed||–|
(16) Greenways Funding – 15 June “016
Deputy Peter Burke: Information on Peter Burke Zoom on Peter Burke 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 CenterParcs 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.
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross I thank the Deputy for bringing this very important issue to my attention. Indeed, I have had more questions on this particular issue in the last two days than I have had on anything else. Greenways are all the rage.
As the Deputy said, I was recently in County Westmeath and met with him, my colleague, Deputy Kevin Moran, councillors and officials from Westmeath County Council. I was taken by their commitment to developing greenways in County Westmeath and was impressed by the significant work carried out to date on both the old rail trail from Mullingar to Athlone and the greenway from Mullingar to Abbeyshrule in County Longford. Both projects were funded by my Department as was the original section of this greenway from the Meath border to Mullingar alongside the Royal Canal. To date, I understand that Westmeath County Council has been provided with funding of €8.7 million for greenway development in the county. This shows the commitment of both Westmeath and my Department to the development of these wonderful amenities. Indeed, Westmeath is the centre of much of the greenway network that we have in this country. From the county border with County Meath to Abbeyshrule in Longford and Athlone, there is a grand total of just over 80 km of greenways in County Westmeath.
With regard to County Longford, I understand that the county council has done some very good work to date with no funding from other sources to achieve planning permission for its own cycle network in the county. It also provided the entire funding to extend the greenway from the county border with Westmeath into the village of Abbeyshrule. This is an example to other local authorities of what can be achieved through a bottom-up approach to the development of greenway projects. With the prospect of the CenterParcs facility opening near Ballymahon in a few years, the future for tourism in County Longford is looking very positive.
As part of my Department’s plans for the Galway to Dublin greenway, we hope to continue the greenway from Garrycastle to the marina in Athlone and westwards across the Shannon to Galway. I understand that Westmeath County Council has planning in place for this section and is shortly to submit an application for planning for a new bridge across the Shannon from the marina. I understand that the proposed extension from Garrycastle to White Gates provides links to a number of schools and colleges in Athlone and would therefore provide the opportunity to assist in increasing the numbers cycling to school and college. This is a hugely important benefit to those living in Athlone and the surrounding area and would also be of benefit to the younger generation in educating them and encouraging them in the use of more sustainable forms of transport.
(17) Planning Issues – 22 June 2016
- Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will introduce the submission of planning applications and comments electronically by e-mail with reference to changes to the planning process (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17169/16]
Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Simon Coveney): The Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2016, which was published in January 2016 and is currently on the Dáil Order Paper awaiting Second Stage, proposes to amend section 33 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 to provide that the Minister may , subsequent to the enactment of the Bill, make regulations to facilitate the on-line submission of planning applications and appeals, including relevant fees, by electronic means (referred to as e-planning) to planning authorities and An BordPleanála respectively. The Bill further proposes that decisions in relation to planning applications and appeals may also be dealt with by planning authorities and An BordPleanála respectively by electronic means.
These proposals are amongst a broad package of measures currently being developed by my Department to facilitate the streamlining of the planning process, to bring it up to date technologically, and to make it more administratively efficient. I would be anxious to make the necessary regulations in this regard at an early date, following enactment of the Bill.
Dail Debates & Questions Jan/Feb 2016
(1) Planning Review
(2) Foreshore Issues
(3) Planning Issues ( Promoting active and healthy living)
(4) Charter of Rights for farmers
(5) Charter of Rights for farmers
(6) National Parks Closures
(7) Waterways Issues
(1) Planning Issues – 13 January 2016
- Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the findings of the preliminary MacCabeDurney Barnes report into the performance of planning functions in respect of six planning authorities; his response and the details of meetings held as a result; his observations on same; the detail surrounding such observations; the facts in relation to the revising of the preliminary findings report; how many times it was revised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46698/15]
- Deputy Fergus O’Dowd asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when he recieved the written report of MacCabeDurney Barnes into the performance of planning functions in respect of six planning authorities; the recommendations made; if he will publish it; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46699/15]
Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Alan Kelly): I propose to take Questions Nos. 848 and 849 together.
MacCabeDurney Barnes Consultants were appointed in February 2014 to carry out an independent planning review on the performance of planning functions having regard to specific planning issues in respect of six planning authorities (Carlow, Cork, Galway and Meath County Councils and Cork and Dublin City Councils) in accordance with section 255 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended.
In line with the Terms of Reference, MacCabeDurney Barnes Consultants submitted a Preliminary Findings Report or draft Report on 2 October 2014 and my Department subsequently met with the consultants on 20 February 2015 to review my Department’s observations on the draft Report. Subsequently, the consultants were requested to circulate the relevant parts of the draft Report to the relevant planning authorities and complainants in finalising the report which is broadly in line with the draft Report.
I received the final report from the consultants in July 2015 and, after having fully considered its contents, I published the Independent Planning Review of The Performance of Planning Functions having regard to Specific Issues raised in respect of Six Planning Authorities – Final Report by MacCabeDurney Barnes on 15 December 2015. The independent Review Report has not found that the planning system is broken or fundamentally flawed from a legislative and policy framework perspective, but that certain systems and procedures need to be reviewed and enhanced to achieve the standards of transparency, consistency and accountability that a modern society expects.
I also published my Department’s response to the report entitled Response of the Department of the Environment Community and Local Government to the
Independent Planning Review of the Performance of Planning Functions having regard to Specific Issues raised in respect of Six Planning Authorities outlining steps to be taken in the implementation of all 29 recommendations by legislative, regulatory and policy level changes.
Both reports are available on my Department’s website athttp://www.environ.ie/en/Publications/DevelopmentandHousing/Planning/.
(2) Foreshore Issues – 13 January 2016
- Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when legal advice was sought initially on how to best deal with the foreshore issues arising at an area (details supplied) in County Galway; from whom the advice was sought; if any response of any type has issued since this request for advice; what his Department has done to follow this matter up; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1020/16]
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Paudie Coffey): My Department has been engaging with the Chief State Solicitor’s Office since 2014 as to how best to deal with the foreshore issues arising at the area in question. During this time, some of the many complex legal and property issues that have arisen in this particular case have been researched and clarified. However, final legal advices are still awaited. Upon receipt of final legal advices, which are expected shortly, my Department will be in a position to decide on the next steps to be taken in the case.
(3) Planning Issues – 14 January 2016
- Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government , given section 5.2 of the planning guidelines for local authorities, which he issued in June 2013, obligating planning authorities to seek to promote active and healthier lifestyles by ensuring that the exposure of children to the promotion of foods that are high in fat, salt or sugar is reduced through careful consideration of the appropriateness and-or location of fast food outlets in the vicinity of schools and parks, if the most transparent and democratic method for local authorities to achieve this objective is through amending county development plans to incorporate so-called no-fry zones around schools and parks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1686/16]
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Paudie Coffey): My Department published statutory guidelines for planning authorities in June 2013 on Local Area Plans under Section 28 of the Planning Act 2000 (as amended). Section 5 of these Guidelines offer advice as regards the structure and content of local area plans and sets out a range of policies that can be put in place to promote and facilitate active and healthy living patterns for local communities.
– promoting walking, cycling as modes of transport;
– accessibility to public open spaces, recreational and sports facilities;
– proximity of new development to sustainable travel modes;
– provision of play areas; and
– careful consideration of the appropriateness of the location of fast food outlets in the vicinity of schools and parks.
A practical effect of these guidelines with regard to fast food outlets is that consideration can be given to the appropriateness of their location in the vicinity of schools and parks, for example in newly developing areas, while at the same time taking into account wider land use considerations.
However, with regard to the many schools located in or near town centres, restriction of fast food outlets in these kinds of situations needs to be carefully considered on a case by case basis, in view of the mix of existing uses typically found in central areas.
In addition, planning policy with regard to the location of fast food outlets needs to be considered also within the wider policy context of practical steps that can be taken to more widely promote and facilitate active and healthy living patterns by enhancing scope for activities such as walking, cycling and sports and active leisure pursuits and their associated facilities
(4) Farmers Charter of Rights – 27 January 2016
- Deputy Derek Nolan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the amount of money his Department has paid in salaries for the farmers charter review group and for the farmers charter monitoring committee form their inception to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3449/16]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): A Farmers’ Charter Review Group was set up in 2014 with a view to agreeing a new Farmers’ Charter of Rights. The Farmers Charter Review Group was chaired by an Assistant Secretary General of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and comprised of senior Department officials and representatives of the main farmer representative organisations. Following on from positive engagement by all parties, negotiations between my Department and the main farming organisations on a new Farmers’ Charter of Rights concluded on Thursday 11 June 2015 with consensus achieved on the Charter.
The new Charter will remain in place until 2020 coinciding with the lifetime of the current Pillar I and Pillar II schemes.
There were no additional salary costs to my Department in respect of the Farmers’ Charter of Rights Review Group. Officials of my Department carried out work in relation to the Farmers’ Charter of Rights Review Group as part of their day to day work.
A Farmers’ Charter of Rights Monitoring Committee has now been established under an independent chair to monitor agreed targets and standards. This Committee is comprised of representatives of the farm organisations and staff of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
Again there are no additional salary costs to my Department in respect of the Farmers’ Charter of Rights Monitoring Committee. Officials of my Department carry out work in relation to the Farmers’ Charter of Rights Monitoring Committee as part of their day to day work.
The Monitoring Committee has met on one occasion since its establishment and a fee of €377 was paid to the Chairman for his chairmanship of this Monitoring Committee meeting.
(5) Farmers Charter of Rights – 27 January 2016
(WHAT ABOUT A CHARTER FOR RECREATIONAL USERS!!)
- Deputy Derek Nolan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if targets were met by the original charter of rights for farmers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3450/16]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): I understand the Deputy is referring to the original Farmers’ Charter of Rights which dates back to the mid 1990s. Statistics in relation to that Charter are not readily available. However, there have been a number of versions of the Charter since then. Throughout the years, targets set down in the various Farmers’ Charters have been monitored by independently chaired Monitoring Committees comprising representatives of the main farm organisations as well as Department staff. The table below sets out the achievements in terms of targets met for the three most recent years for which the information is available.
|Direct Payment Schemes
97% paid within targets
70-100% paid within targets
|Direct Payment Schemes
97% paid within target
80-100% paid within targets
|Direct Payment Schemes
96% paid within Charter
84-100% paid within targets
Negotiations on the current Farmers’ Charter of Rights took place during 2014 and the first half of 2015. Therefore, Monitoring Committee meetings did not take place during this period. Following on from the achievement of consensus on a new Charter in 2015, a Farmers’ Charter of Rights Monitoring Committee has been established under an independent chair. This Committee is again comprised of representatives of the farm organisations and staff of my Department. This Committee, which had its first meeting in November 2015 and will meet again later this month, will monitor agreed targets and standards throughout the lifetime of this Charter
(6) National Parks Closures – 28 January 2016
- Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the situation in relation to Diamond Hill, Letterfrack in County Galway, the upper trail of which is currently closed due to maintenance, when it was closed, and when it will reopen; what maintenance works are being carried out; the reasons for the works; the cost of such works; who is carrying them out; how many persons visited Diamond Hill in 2015; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3601/16]
Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Heather Humphreys): In 2015 approximately 200,000 people visited Connemara National Park and most of these would have visited at least part of the Diamond Walk. The Upper Diamond Walk has been closed intermittently since December to facilitate essential health and safety maintenance work. The Lower Diamond is unaffected by the works. This restorative work includes remediating subsidence and the general maintenance works necessary to make the walkway safe for the general public. Stone slabs and gravel are being used and due to the location, these were transported to the site by helicopter. The work has been carried out at intervals depending on prevailing weather conditions.
The work cost approximately €49,000 and is being carried out by Walsh Stoneworks. It is expected that works will be completed in the coming days and the walkway will reopen as soon it is safe to do so.
(7) Waterways Issues – 2 February 2016
- Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if she will make the use of canals and waterways more accessible to boat owners and operators; and her views that these waterways are being utilised to the fullest, in terms of recreational and tourism potential. [44993/15]
Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Waterways Ireland is a North South Implementation Body co-sponsored and co-funded by my Department and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure in Northern Ireland. It is responsible for managing, maintaining, developing and promoting over 1000km of inland navigable waterways, principally for recreational purposes.
Since its establishment in 2000, Waterways Ireland has been active in progressing the development of the recreational infrastructure of the waterways and this has resulted in major improvements that include the construction of new harbours, the provision of an additional 13km of public moorings, extended on-shore services and the creation of new waterway destinations. Registered boat numbers over this time have increased by more than 50% to a total of 14,690 in 2014.
More than €50m has been invested by Waterways Ireland in reopening the Royal Canal and work continues across the Royal, Grand and Barrow Canals to expand their use as invaluable outdoor recreational corridors through the development of Blueways. These are recreational trails on or beside water for walking, cycling, fishing, boating and canoeing. The development of Blueways creates new recreational opportunities for local communities as well as attracting visitors to rural areas where the waterways are an integral part of the community and local businesses. The first Blueway, which was developed on the North Shannon last year, attracted over 100,000 people in 2015.
Waterways Ireland is also engaged in works to restore the Ulster Canal from the Shannon-Erne Waterway to the International Scout Centre at Castle Saunderson, near Belturbet in Co. Cavan. This project has the potential to act as a catalyst for the regeneration of this border area. It will also provide a wonderful recreational facility for local communities and should act as a significant draw for tourists.
Waterways Ireland engages in a wide range of marketing and promotional activity for the inland waterways. For example, early in 2015, in support of the Irish Chartered Boat Rental Association, assistance with targeted marketing support was undertaken in key overseas markets in partnership with FáilteÉireann and Tourism Ireland. Waterways Ireland also operates the Lakelands and Inland Waterways marketing programme in partnership with FáilteÉireann and relevant local authorities.
Waterways Ireland has an ongoing programme to utilise disused built heritage assets for new recreational purposes. The 27th lock house in Tullamore, for example, is being developed by the local canoe club as a base to support its activities. New businesses providing recreational activities on the waterways are also supported by licensing the use of Waterways Ireland property to help them become established.
I can assure the Deputy that Waterways Ireland is intent on continuing to create opportunities to increase the use of these valuable public assets for all kinds of recreational and tourism activities and to this end it will continue to work in partnership with all relevant stakeholders, including local communities, to maximise the economic, social and recreational potential of the waterways.
Dail Debates & Questions December 2015
(1) Waterways Issues
(2) Farm Household Incomes
(3) Heritage Sites
(4) Meeting with Lobbyists
(5) Heritage Sites – Not in our ownership!
(6) Greenway Funding
(7) Planning Investigation Issues
(1) Waterways Issues – 8th December 2015
- Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the extent of Waterways Ireland’s role in developing and using canal ways and canal banks to incorporate recreational cycle and walking routes; the sections of the canals which have been developed to incorporate such routes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43487/15]
Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Heather Humphreys): I have been informed by Waterways Ireland that the Royal and Grand Canals and Barrow Navigation comprise over 400 km of canals which are under its management. These are important publicly owned recreational corridors which support a wide range of boating and water sports. The canal towpaths represent opportunities for both local communities and tourists to enjoy off-road cycling and walking while enjoying the built and natural heritage of these resources. Waterways Ireland works in partnership with a wide range of stakeholders, including local authorities, Fáilte Ireland, the National Roads Authority, the National Trails Office and local communities to develop and enhance the towpaths along the canals in its care.
In Dublin, a programme to upgrade the towpaths into premium walking and cycleways has been ongoing for a number of years. Most recently, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport has supported the development of 2.4 km of greenway on the canal towpath from the 10th Lock at Ashtown to the 12th Lock at Castleknock.
One of Waterways Ireland’s objectives is to upgrade the towpaths along the entire route of the Royal and Grand Canals, making it possible to travel the 140 km along either canal from Dublin to the Shannon and also to connect the towpaths to the many amenities and attractions along these routes.
Other projects that have been developed or are under development include the following:
– In cooperation with Longford County Council, the re-opening in 2014 of 16 km of multi-use towpath along the disused Longford Branch of the Royal Canal;
– With financial support from Kildare County Council, the upgrading of 3 km of towpath, which forms part of the Arthur’s Way Greenway project, has been completed recently;
– On the Barrow Navigation, Waterways Ireland is leading a consortium of local authorities to enhance the Barrow towpath and create enhanced access to this 100 km valley and canalised river navigation; and
– 60 km of the proposed Dublin to Galway Greenway runs along the Royal Canal towpath and the relevant local authorities have a central role in progressing this project in cooperation with the National Transport Authority and Waterways Ireland.
(2) Farm Household Incomes – 8th December 2015
- Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the average family income for dairy, cattle, sheep and tillage farmers for each of the years 2011 to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44073/15]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): The following table shows average family farm income from Teagasc’s National Farm Survey for the years 2011 to 2014, by system of farming.
|Dairying||Cattle Rearing||Cattle Other||Sheep||Tillage||Mixed Livestock||All farms|
|% of farms represented||20%||23%||30%||16%||8%||3%||100%|
Source: Teagasc, National Farm Survey
At the recent Teagasc, Annual Review and Outlook 2016 conference Teagasc estimated that average family farm income would fall by 9% in 2015 and rise by 5% in 2016.
The data illustrates that there is a gap between the incomes on dairy farms and those on drystock farms, with tillage farms in between. It should be borne in mind that almost all dairy farms are classified by Teagasc as full-time farms in terms of the labour input required, whereas most drystock farms are classified as part-time in terms of labour input required. In 2014, on 30% of all farms the farm holder had an off-farm job, and on 51% of farms either the holder and/or spouse had an off-farm job. Overall, it is estimated that on 75% of farms, either the farmer and/or spouse had another source of off-farm income, be it from employment, pensions or other social assistance.
(3) Heritage Sites – 8th December 2015
- Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht why she has ceased negotiations on the purchase of Granard Motte, despite Longford County Council having made a significant contribution towards the purchase cost, and given the huge benefit of having a national monument in State ownership, if she will re-open negotiations with a view to bringing this to a satisfactory conclusion, even if this means going down the route of a compulsory purchase order; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43562/15]
Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Heather Humphreys): I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 665 of 23 June 2015. Unfortunately, negotiations with the owner on behalf of my Department and Longford County Council had recently to be suspended in the absence of agreement on a purchase price for the monument, having regard to value for public money and the official valuation of the property.
I have, however, informed the Council that I would be happy for my Department to re-engage in further negotiations in the event of there being any indications that such discussions might have a prospect of success and that the Council should advise my Department accordingly.
(4) Meetings with Lobbyists – 8th December 2015
- Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the number of meetings requested by private external lobby groups and the number of meetings held, in tabular form; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43593/15]
Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Heather Humphreys): The Regulation of Lobbying Act was commenced in September 2015. In furtherance of the requirements of the Act and associated regulations, my Department’s website (www.ahg.gov.ie) carries details of my Department’s Designated Public Officials. This facilitates registered lobbyists in fulfilling their statutory obligation to report communications made with the relevant persons which fall with the scope of the Act. Lobbyists have been required to record communications with Designated Public Officials in relation to matters covered by the Act since 1 September 2015. Lobbyists are required to make a return in relation to such communications which took place between the aforementioned date and 31 December 2015 to the Standards in Public Office Commission by 16 January 2016.
The statutory mechanisms governing lobbying set out clearly the relevant people and bodies covered by the legislation as well as the nature of the communications which constitute lobbying. As these statutory mechanisms are now operational, I do not propose to pre-empt the deadlines established by the legislation. In the meantime, the Deputy may wish to note that my diary of appointments is published periodically on my Department’s website.
(5) Heritage Sites – 8th December 2015 NOT IN MY OWNERSHIP
- Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if she will develop a preservation plan for St. Fechin’s church and holy well in Omey Island in Conamara, County Galway, and, in particular, take steps to prevent erosion from causing any further damage to the site; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44223/15]
Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Heather Humphreys): These monuments are not in my ownership or guardianship under the National Monuments Acts 1930 to 2004. I understand that they are located in an area of commonage with several private owners.
The monuments are, however, included in the Record of Monuments and Places under section 12 of the National Monuments (Amendment) Act 1994. Any person proposing to carry out works at, or in relation to, such a monument is required to give my Department two months’ notice in writing and must not, except in a case of urgent necessity and with my consent, carry out the works before that two months period has elapsed.
My Department will be glad to provide any interested parties with any guidance or advice that might be of assistance in relation to the statutory provisions applicable in this case.
(6) Greenways Funding – 9th December 2015
- Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the various reports and the details and assessment of projects that were submitted for greenway funding, the order of merit they were placed in, the projects that received funding, the amount of funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44282/15]
- Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport why the application for funding for a greenway project at Blessington in County Wicklow did not receive funding, details of any project that received funding but received lower points in an assessment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44283/15]
206. Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the funding that was allocated for greenway development that has not been utilised to date, his plans to reallocate this funding to other projects such as the Blessington project in County Wicklow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44284/15
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): I propose to take Questions Nos. 204 to 206, inclusive, together.
A total of 38 proposals for cycleway/greenway projects were submitted from 28 local authorities to my Department under the National Cycle Network (NCN) Funding Programme 2014 -2016. These proposals were assessed by an expert assessment team as part of a competitive process. The outcome was that three projects from Kerry, Galway and Waterford shared in funding of €6.3 million, details of which can be viewed on my Department’s Smarter Travel website www.smartertravel.ie. under the subheading National Cycle Network.
Details of the associated NCN assessment process and results have been uploaded onto my Department’s website (www.dttas.ie) following a Freedom of Information request (Ref.FOI20140063).
A further 11 projects, submitted under the NCN Funding Programme, shared in €10 million funding from the Government Stimulus Package for Infrastructural Development (details attached). The funding for the Stimulus Package used the same scoring system as the NCN but, given the nature of the stimulus package, required projects to be shovel-ready and able to be finished within 12 months. For that reason Blessington did not meet the criteria and was not awarded funding. I acknowledge that a small number of authorities awarded funding under this package have experienced difficulties in delivering completed projects with the 12 month timeframe. My officials are dealing with each on a case by case basis.
The further investment in transport package announced last July also directed funding towards greenway infrastructure with Westmeath Co Council being awarded €3 million to complete the Athlone to Mullingar Greenway to a high specification.
The Blessington Greenway proposal submitted under the NCN programme was among a small number of projects which were viewed as high value propositions and which were awarded a high rating by the expert assessment panel. However, for reasons of costing, deliverability, viability or legal issues a number of high scoring projects could not be considered for funding under that tranche.
Currently all Department funding for the delivery of greenways is fully committed up to 2016, however, my Department will continuing to explore other possible funding streams to assist local authorities in the delivery of greenways for their county.
I would urge Wicklow Co Council to advance the Blessington Greenway proposal to the greatest degree possible from own resources, possibly having all design and statutory requirements in place in advance of the next funding so as to be well positioned to compete.
(7) Planning Issues – 15th December 2015
- Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if the inquiries into planning matters in Counties Wicklow, Dublin, Cork, Donegal, Galway and Carlow have been completed; and when he will make the results available. [45207/15]
Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Alan Kelly): MacCabeDurney Barnes Consultants were appointed in February 2014 to carry out an independent planning review on the performance of planning functions having regard to specific planning issues in respect of six planning authorities (Carlow, Cork, Galway and Meath County Councils and Cork and Dublin City Councils) in accordance with section 255 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended.
I received the final report from the consultants in July 2015 and, having fully considered its contents, I intend to publish the report on my Department’s website today.
A separate review follows on from the Order made by the High Court on 14 June 2013, quashing that part of my Department’s Planning Review Report (2012) relating to Donegal,
following a settlement between my Department and the party concerned who had brought judicial review proceedings in respect of that part of the Report. The matter has been disposed of to the satisfaction of both sides. In light of these proceedings, my Department subsequently sought the advice of the Attorney General on how best to proceed in the case of issues raised in relation to planning matters in Donegal. Taking account of advice from the Office of the Attorney General my Department has appointed, on a non-statutory basis, Senior Counsel to prepare a review report in relation to these matters and a report is awaited.
I have also received correspondence in relation to a number of complaints regarding certain matters in County Wicklow which is being considered. A reply will be issued in due course.
Dail Debates & Questions November 2015
(1) Walk Schemes
(2) Greenway Funding
(3) Greenway Funding – Dublin to Galway
(4) Wild Atlantic Way
(6) Wild Atlantic Way Project – National Monuments
(7) Greenways Funding
(1) National Heritage Plan – Walks Schemes – 10 Nov 2015
- Deputy SeánKyne asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government for an update on the national walkway scheme; the number of walkways established; the number of applications awaiting consideration by his Department; his plans to extend the numbers of walks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39288/15]
Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Ann Phelan): There are now 39 trails covered by the Walks Scheme and there are currently no applications under the Walks Scheme with my Department awaiting consideration.
The number of participants on the Walks Scheme currently stands at 1,8 96 and payments to participants on the Walks Scheme in 2015 will be in the region of €1.8 million.
(2) Greenways Funding – 10 Nov 2015
- Deputy Jim Daly asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will consider the extension of an existing walkway (details supplied) in West Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39305/15]
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): While the proposed walkway-cycleway has merit it is a matter for Cork County Council (CCC), in the first instance, to develop a project outline and if funding is required submit an application to my Department under whatever funding programme is in place at that time. I know that CCC are developing and progressing plans for a number of greenways at present. As the Deputy will appreciate given limited resources, both at local authority and national level, only those projects which have the best chance of securing funding are submitted to my Department.
Planning and land ownership issues have proven to be obstacles in progressing a number of greenway around the country and can be time consuming to resolve. In the event of CCC supporting this proposal and working with you and your constituent to put in place the statutory requirements necessary my Department would in turn be supportive of exploring the extension of the Walks Scheme to encourage landowner participation.
(3) Greenways Funding – Dublin Galway – 11 Nov 2015
- Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans for the completion of the greenway between Dublin and Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39196/15]
Deputy Denis Naughten: The approach taken to planning the greenway between Ballinasloe and Galway has led to a decision to pause the plans for the cycle way between Athlone and Galway. The fundamental problem is that the routing of the greenway through County Galway has taken a different approach from that taken on the eastern side of the River Shannon, where it was based on publicly owned lands along the canal and disused railways. Is the Minister committed to a greenway from Athlone to Galway and, if so, will he facilitate that by utilising existing public lands to the greatest extent possible?
Deputy Paschal Donohoe: As the Deputy will be aware, earlier this year, the Minister of State, Deputy Ring, and I met representatives of landowners in that area and representative bodies, including the IFA. After that meeting, the Minister of State and I requested the project team tasked with delivering the western section of the Dublin to Galway greenway to commence a consultation process with landowners along the preferred route. A report was provided to the Minister of State and me, and we published it. We made it fully public because we want the matter to be in the public domain and be transparent.
Having discussed the report with my officials, and the Minister of State and I having considered the report’s conclusion, our decision was to pause the further development of the Galway and Roscommon sections to allow time to reflect on the issues raised and to give consideration to the possibility of developing a new route that works locally and has the support of key landowners. I appreciate – this was evident in the report – that overall the level of support among landowners along the Roscommon section of the then preferred route was positive. That was one of the reasons we decided to publish the report. I wanted all that to be in the public domain. Based on our joint prospective, we could not progress with that section of the route in its entirety without being clear as to how we would deal with the Galway portion of the route.
In the interim, my Department will focus on completing the section of the greenway from Maynooth to Westmeath through Kildare and Meath, which has planning permission in place and is ready for development. The reason the Minister of State, Deputy Ring, and I met the landowners and the reason we decided to go ahead with other parts of the greenway was to make very clear our commitment to the completion of the overall project. A Dublin to Galway national greenway would be a massive piece of public infrastructure and I am committed to putting in place a process to complete that largest section.
Deputy Denis Naughten: I thank the Minister for acknowledging that there is considerable agreement on the section between Athlone and Ballinasloe. The reason for that agreement on the section through County Roscommon and part of County Galway is that about 40% of the route between Athlone and Ballinasloe is on publicly owned lands. Can the Minister give me an assurance that we will look at routing the greenway from Ballinasloe to Galway on existing publicly owned lands? As we know, over the next 15 years BordnaMóna will be pulling out of milled peat production. Much of its land bank in County Galway is not in production at the moment or will come out of production in due course. A significant land bank owned by Coillte is available. Does it not make more sense to try to map a route between Ballinasloe and Galway utilising those lands in so far as possible and then sitting down with the landowners in the other sections?
Deputy Paschal Donohoe: I will go to the heart of the Deputy’s question on the use of private land. During the Easter school break earlier this year I had the opportunity to go to the greenway located in the county and constituency of the Minister of State, Deputy Ring. I observed the success of it running from Westport through Newport and Mulranny to Achill. Much of that greenway is located on and through private lands. Agreements were put in place based on the principle of permissive access regarding the use of that land. Using that land has delivered a project of extraordinary success because it has allowed cyclists and tourists, such as me, to see to the maximum the local communities and villages as well as the broader environment. Going through some farmland with the co-operation of the farmers has made it such a success.
The key point the Deputy put to me was whether I could give a guarantee that it could all go through public land. I am afraid I cannot.
Deputy Denis Naughten: I did not ask the Minister that.
Deputy Denis Naughten: I am disappointed that the Minister is failing to listen to me. I have been saying this since last February. I am probably the only public representative to say publicly that I want the greenway between Athlone and Galway to proceed. It will go through my parish and I am determined to see it go ahead. However, it can only proceed with the consent of landowners. In the example that has been given between Athlone and Ballinasloe it will go through public and private lands, which is the solution to this; it is a combination of both. The greenway between Westport and Achill goes through public and private lands, and that is the solution for the section from Ballinasloe to Galway.
Tremendous work has already been done, particularly by one individual, Anne Marie Johnson on Roscommon County Council. Will the Minister commit to bring the cycleway from Athlone to Ballinasloe, and even by physical segregation along the existing N6 as far as Aughrim? As the Minister knows, the 325th anniversary of the Battle of Aughrim will occur next July. We could create a siege cycleway from Athlone right through to Aughrim. I hope the Minister can give an indication that he is committed to such a development.
Deputy Paschal Donohoe: I am sorry but the Deputy earlier asked me to give a commitment on how the greenway would be built. I will not give that commitment when an independent body is in place to ascertain how it could be built. I will not prejudge what it might recommend or undermine its work in any way.
The overall Galway to Roscommon section, at more than 110 km, is the largest portion of it, as the Deputy will know. While the work is now under way to see how a new route could be delivered to try to meet the needs the Deputy has outlined, I have now decided that the Kildare and Meath portions of this should proceed and work will begin on those next year. I will not give any commitment on a new route simply because this work will be carried out by TII which will give us the best chance of getting a mix between public and private land while delivering a route that we know tourists and cyclists will want use.
Deputy Paschal Donohoe: The Deputy can put that question to me again then.
We have a process in place with TII and I will not prejudge the outcome of that, just as I did not prejudge the previous process that led to this conclusion.
Deputy Denis Naughten: All I am asking for is a mix.
An Leas-CheannComhairle: I call Deputy Lawlor for a brief supplementary question.
Deputy Anthony Lawlor: I welcome that the Minister has said that the greenway from Maynooth to Mullingar will proceed. When will that be started? We are talking about the Royal Canal at the moment, but what plans does the Minister have for the greenway on the Grand Canal?
Deputy Paschal Donohoe: In answer to the Deputy’s first question, I expect the preparatory work on the Kildare and Meath portions of the greenway will begin in the first half of next year. I expect those new portions of the greenway to be open by the summer of 2017, which will then allow us to have made much more progress on the first half of the greenway.
I am not in a position to say if further funding will be available in the coming months for the other greenway project the Deputy mentioned. The Minister of State, Deputy Ring, and I want to deliver more greenways and we want to find new funding to make it happen. This process will ascertain if different kinds of greenways can be delivered, perhaps at lower cost, to meet the kinds of needs the Deputy has referred to.
(4) Tourism Promotion – Wild Atlantic Way – 11 Nov 2015
- Deputy SeánKyne asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport for an update on the success of the Wild Atlantic Way; the investment timelines over the next few years, in terms of initiatives in the Galway area; the boost to the hotel, bed and breakfast, and hospitality sectors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39237/15]
Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Michael Ring): 2015 is set to be a record year for Irish tourism with overseas figures showing growth of 12.5% for the first nine months of the year over the same period last year. The Wild Atlantic Way, now coming to the end of the second full season in operation, is contributing to the increase in both visitor numbers and spend in the West. Domestically, awareness of the Wild Atlantic Way is very high but internationally it is still a developing brand. The operational development of the Wild Atlantic Way is a matter for the Board and Management of Failte Ireland and I have asked them to provide further detail directly to the Deputy.
However, the Deputy may be interested to note that the agency delivered the Wild Atlantic Way Expo in Galway in October, at which 60 overseas buyers participated in Familiarisation Trips along the Wild Atlantic Way and convened in Galway for two days of business meetings and workshops with over 100 Irish tourism suppliers.
Fáilte Ireland is also investing over €4.5M in developing the Wild Atlantic Way in Galway. Investment includes the development of the Signature Discovery Point at Derrygimlagh, the Connemara Cultural Centre at Pearse’s Cottage in Rosmuc, Phase 1 of the Connemara Greenway, remedial works at Mainland Discovery Point and Embarkation Points, installation of Photo Points and Branding at all Discovery Points, including the four island locations and the Connemara Interpretation Plan.
For 2016 the focus will be on developing compelling visitor experiences, encouraging an increased length of stay and on extending the season into the shoulder months. This will involve working with tourism businesses, local communities and other key stakeholders to develop experiences to sell internationally.
(5) Waterways Issues – Recreational Users –12 Nov 2015
- Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the extent to which she expects to achieve an amicable resolution of issues between Waterways Ireland and traditional dwellers and recreational users of the Grand Canal in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39954/15]
- Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the extent to which she expects to be in a position to facilitate or accommodate the needs of the traditional canal dwellers and recreational users of the Grand Canal and the Royal Canal in County Kildare, having regard to the huge voluntary efforts contributed by the community in the case of the latter, and the need to ensure a fair and equitable resolution to issues arising from the draft management proposals as set out by Waterways Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39957/15]
Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Heather Humphreys): I propose to take Questions Nos. 224 and 227 together.
I am advised by Waterways Ireland that its inspectorate continues to advise, make aware and educate its recreational boating customers across all Waterways Ireland navigations with respect to their obligations under the various navigation bye-laws. Where bye-law contraventions are noted, owners are informed by various means including in person, by email, by phone and/or by a notice being placed on their boat and they are given every opportunity to comply.
As I indicated to the Deputy in my replies to previous questions relating to this subject (Questions No. 39 on 30 April 2015, No. 275 on 18 June 2015 and No. 36 on 24 September 2015), I am aware that concerns have been raised regarding certain aspects of the proposed bye-laws that Waterways Ireland intends to make in order to enhance the management of the canals for all canal users.
The current position is that there is ongoing liaison between Waterways Ireland and my Department with a view to finalising the draft bye-laws which will be referred to me with recommendations for consideration and final decision. It is my intention to afford interested Deputies and Senators an opportunity to discuss the proposals with me prior to making a final decision on the proposed bye-laws.
(7) Wild Atlantic Way Project – National Monuments 19/11/15
- Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans to promote the Office of Public Works’ heritage sites in counties which are along the Wild Atlantic Way and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40402/15]
Deputy Patrick O’Donovan: This question relates to the asset base under the control of the Minister’s Department for the Office of Public Works in terms of national monuments and heritage sites. I refer, in particular, to those located in counties along the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland’s Ancient East, and how they can best contribute to the tourism industry, given the investment that has been made by the Minister’s Department.
Deputy Brendan Howlin: I thank the Deputy for his question. The Wild Atlantic Way brand has successfully grabbed the imagination of many visitors to Ireland and proved to be a very popular proposition for attract tourists. The OPW manages in excess of 716 national monument and heritage sites, a significant number of which are located on the route to which the Deputy referred. We are all familiar with sites such as Newgrange which attract large numbers and where the OPW provides a range of visitor services. However, on many more sites in State care these services are not provided and the majority of the monuments are in their natural state in the Irish countryside, a significant proportion of which are to be found on the route of the Wild Atlantic Way.
Understanding that a large proportion of visitors who come to Ireland want to experience cultural and heritage sites, the relevant agencies involved, namely, Fáilte Ireland, the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and the OPW, are working actively together on a plan to better promote the Wild Atlantic Way. This project has as its objective the better promotion of the Wild Atlantic Way’s heritage sites and will seek to promote them coherently within each of the six Fáilte Ireland zones which have been created for the purposes of marketing this important route.
The three agencies are working to examine all of the Wild Atlantic Way sites to establish what is available for visitors at the locations concerned and how the sites might be made more attractive to tourists. In broad terms, what is emerging through the study is that there is a series of “bundles” or “clusters” of sites which represent possibilities to enrich the visitor or tourist experience, drawing them into less visited parts of the country and keeping them there longer, with consequent benefits for local economies.
(Editors Note: What about access?)
(8) Greenways Funding – 24 November 2105
- Deputy James Bannon asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the status of the provision of funding to a project (details supplied) in County Longford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41546/15]
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): Funding for the delivery of greenways is fully committed up until 2016. However, the development of a greenway along the Royal Canal from Abbeyshrule to Ballymahon is one of various projects which would be considered for funding should additional resources become available. Officials from my Department along with colleagues from the National Trails Office and Fáilte Ireland visited the location of this proposed greenway recently to assess its suitability. I understand that the results of their assessment, and their assessments of other proposals, will be available shortly.
I understand that planning permission is already in place for this project and this would be helpful should funding become available. Indeed, I would urge other local authorities to follow Longford County Council’s lead in progressing projects through the planning phase from their own resources as this will mean that projects are ‘shovel ready’ and thus easier to allocate funding to.
Dail Debates & Questions October 2015
(1) Private Ownership
(2) Sale of Coillte Land/Assets& Access for Recreation
(1) Wild Atlantic Way Project – 6th October 2015
- Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the reason the Seven Arches at Portsalon in County Donegal, one of County Donegal’s most iconic landmarks on the Wild Atlantic Way, has been excluded from development and promotion, on the basis of limited access; the measures that will be put in place to have this site re-opened to public access, either by land or sea; the person who and body which has ownership of the Seven Arches; the length of time it has remained closed; and when the public were last allowed free access to this site. [34633/15]
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): While my Department provides capital funding to Fáilte Ireland for investment in tourism attractions, it is not directly involved in developing or managing these. The role of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport in relation to tourism lies primarily in the area of national policy.
I understand that land access to the Seven Arches cave, located in Portsalon, Donegal, is in private ownership, and as such I have no remit over how access to the land is managed
(2) Sale of State Assets – 7th October 2015
- Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the rationale behind the sale of Coillte’s portfolio of telecommunications assets; his plans to sell off other Coillte assets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34217/15]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): The rationale for the disposal of Coillte’s portfolio of telecommunications assets is that it will enhance Coillte’s focus on its core activities in forestry and the operation of its board mills, which was an underlying principle in the Government Decision relating to Coillte in June 2014. The restructuring is also consistent with the Government Decision, also relating to Coillte, in June 2013. I understand that Coillte has stated that the proceeds from the transaction will strengthen the company’s balance sheet and support their ongoing investment of €59 million in one of their panel board subsidiaries, SmartPly which is based in Belview Port, outside Waterford city, and further investment in its renewable energy business. In relation to the actual transaction, CoillteTeoranta was established as a private commercial company under the Forestry Act 1988. In compliance with the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies, such a significant disposal was a matter for the Board of Coillte while my approval and the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform for the disposal were required, also under the Code of Practice. The business was sold through a competitive bidding process in which the sale of the assets was widely advertised. The sale was handled on Coillte’s behalf by Goodbody Corporate Finance and overseen closely by the Board of the company.
Coillte has stated that, while sites at 298 locations were included in the sale, the total area of land associated with these sites is less than 15 hectares. The company has also given an assurance that access to its forests for recreation use is unaffected by the sale of their telecoms portfolio.
The decision to dispose of Coillte’s telecommunications portfolio was not made by me or the Government. It was a business decision by Coillte to capitalise on the significant value built up in its telecommunications business over the last 30 years at a time when there is considerable interest in acquiring infrastructure assets and to use the proceeds for re-investment in core aspects of its business thus creating new State assets.
As I have mentioned, under the Code of Practice, significant disposals are a matter for the Board. The company is currently refreshing its corporate strategy which I will be considering in due course.
(3) Commonage Land – 8th October 2015
- Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of commonages in the municipal district of Connemara in County Galway; the name of each commonage; the details of the commonages that have been assigned to a planner to draw up commonage plans under the green low-carbon agri-environmental scheme, GLAS; the total area of each commonage and the number of shareholders in each commonage; the number of active shareholders in the commonage, based on the most recent data available to his Department through application for area aid; the number of farmers in each commonage who have applied to join GLAS; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35080/15]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): My Department has recently compiled a database of Commonages throughout the country, which is publicly available on the Department’s website and is regularly updated. Most of the information requested by the Deputy can be freely obtained from this database, which can be accessed through the following link:
In this database, all commonages are listed in county order, indicating the townland and their unique identifier number. The total area of each commonage, along with the active shareholders based on the most recent data available to the Department, is also shown. The database also shows the Commonage Advisors who have already been appointed and this information is updated regularly, as further appointments are made. Only commonages in excess of 10 hectares require the appointment of a single advisor.
The individual shareholders who have applied for GLAS are not identified on that database for Data Protection reasons, but this information is provided to the appointed Commonage Advisor by my Department. However, a full breakdown of all applications received , and identifying those with commonages, is supplied as follows.
|County||Submitted||Submitted with Commonage|
Dail Debates & Questions September 2015
(1) Rights of Way Provision
(2) Rural Recreation
(3) National Monuments
(4) Cycling Policy
Rights of Way Provision – 22 Sept. 2015
- Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding changes to rights of way, public access, and so on, by local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30588/15]
Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Alan Kelly): Section 14 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 provides for a process for the inclusion by a planning authority of a provision, in its development plan, relating to the preservation of specific public rights of way. Where such a proposal is being contemplated by the relevant planning authority, the section obliges that authority to serve notice (including particulars of the provision and a map indicating the right of way) of its intention to do so on any owner and occupier of the land over which the right of way exists. The process provides for the referral to the Circuit Court, by the landowner affected, of a proposal to include a right of way and where the court is satisfied that no right of way exists, the planning authority may not include it in its development plan.
Rural Recreation – 22 Sept. 2015
- Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht when a walking trail (details supplied) in County Clare will be made safe and reopened; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31065/15]
Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Heather Humphreys): The trail referred to by the Deputy was closed following extensive damage caused by storms of over a year ago, after which felled trees completely blocked the route and made the area unsafe for visitors. Work has been ongoing this year to clear the felled trees and open up the pathway. This work is now complete and the path is currently open. Further work on the path will be required, however, including the laying of gravel on it, in order to bring it up to the required standard. It is hoped that this work can be carried out before the end of the year.
In the meantime, there are other walking options available to the public at site, including newer trails that were developed in recent years and are illustrated on the display panels at the location.
National Monuments – 23 Sept. 2015
Deputy Eric Byrne: It is with great sadness that I have to raise this issue, which I raised on 22 May 2012 with the Minister of State, Deputy Deenihan, yet again. I brought to the attention of his Department the recklessness of scramblers, quad bikers and others engaging in anti-social activities in the Dublin and Wicklow mountains. I am a regular visitor to them – I am on the mountains every weekend.
The Dublin Mountain Way was developed in conjunction with four local authorities. It is a spectacular civic amenity in the Dublin mountains. There is a Neolithic passage grave which is approximately 5,000 years old and is probably the closest such grave to Dublin. One can stand and look over the city of Dublin, see the bay and reflect that one is standing on
something that was built and operated as a grave by people in the forests of the area. It allows one to contemplate how people might have lived 5,000 years ago.
The tragedy is that last week we discovered an amazing desecration of the grave, which is recognised by the Office of Public Works as a national monument. People systematically tore the passage grave to bits. It is a sight that would bring tears to one’s eye if one was that emotional about the issue.
If this site has stood for 5,000 years, why, over the weekend, can gurriers systematically wreck this passage tomb?
I received a report before I came in from another hill walking activist who told me she has noticed the Fairy Castle cairn has been interfered with, possibly over recent days. It seems people are trying to penetrate this particular cairn to see what may be beneath it. There are many cairns and passage graves in the Wicklow area. On the previous occasion I spoke on this issue it was with regard to motorbikes literally riding right up on top of Seahan and Seefin, and in and around that most magnificent monument to those who lived in the area 5,000 years ago, Seefingan, which has the most magnificent passage grave. It is worth encouraging people to go see it if they are into walking.
Will the Minister of State investigate the desecration of these passage graves? Will he enact the necessary legislation to prevent motorbikes, scramblers and quads desecrating these very important landmarks in our mountain ranges? The Dublin Mountains Way is spectacularly popular with dog walkers, runners and hill walkers. Will the Minister of State take the necessary steps to have both of these sites investigated with a view to taking the necessary action to rehabilitate them in whatever way possible? I have photographs for the Minister of State so he knows what I am speaking about with regard to the desecration of the grave.
Deputy Jimmy Deenihan: I thank the Deputy for raising this matter. The Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, who unfortunately is unavailable today, is charged with responsibility under the National Monuments Acts 1930 to 2004 for the protection of our rich and important archaeological heritage. I assure the Deputy it is a responsibility which both she and her Department treat with the upmost seriousness.
The hilltop cairn at Tibradden, County Dublin, is a national monument of which the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht is guardian under the National Monuments Acts. It has an interesting history. In the middle of the 19th century what was believed to be Bronze Age pottery and bone was recovered from the monument. In 1956, an archaeological excavation was carried out by the National Monuments Service. The results of that excavation clarified that the cairn was in fact a Bronze Age burial site dating from 1,800 B.C. to 600 B.C. However, it is important to note that the above ground passage and chamber structure is actually a 19th century feature.
Examination of Bronze Age burial sites has great potential to yield important archaeological information about ritual and burial rites in prehistoric times. It can, in turn, also cast wider light on the nature and structure of prehistoric society, as well as bringing us into closer contact with our remote ancestors. While, as I have said, the cairn at Tibradden has been subject to some archaeological excavation, there is no doubt it retains the potential to yield further important information about our past, a fact which further highlights the need to preserve and protect it.
As a national monument of which the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht is guardian under the National Monuments Acts, the cairn enjoys a high level of legal protection under those Acts. Section 14 of the National Monuments Act 1930 makes it clear that it is a serious criminal offence for any unauthorised person to interfere with or damage such a monument. A conviction carries a fine of up to €10 million and up to five years in jail. A convicted person may also be required by the courts to fund the cost of repairing the monument. These onerous penalties reflect the gravity with which the Oireachtas views such
offences, a view to which the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht fully subscribes.
As the Deputy will no doubt appreciate, the national monument formed by the cairn at Tibradden is situated in an isolated hilltop location. The protection of such monuments from interference, whether through deliberate vandalism or interference by those who simply do not understand the nature and significance of what they are doing, presents challenges. While the Minister and her Department are, of course, fully committed to using the sanctions available under the National Monuments Acts, she must also rely on the goodwill and vigilance of the public as one of the main ways to protect our archaeological heritage. In that context, the Minister would call on anyone who has information about any damage to this or any other monument to contact her Department’s National Monuments Service or the Garda.
The Minister very much appreciates the steps taken by concerned citizens in this case to bring this matter to the attention of the National Monuments Service. I assure the House that the Minister is having it fully investigated by her Department and has also brought it to the attention of An Garda Síochána. The Minister deplores, as we all should, breaches of the National Monuments Acts; such breaches represent acts of gross disrespect and disregard for our national heritage.
Fortunately, in this particular case, the reported damage may not be especially serious, as it appears to be confined to the movement of loose stones from the cairn into the central chamber area. The material moved would very likely have been taken from an area rebuilt in the 1950s. It may indeed be possible to rectify it by simply moving the loose stone from the chamber back onto the surrounding cairn. The Minister’s Department has already initiated discussions with the Office of Public Works with a view to repairing whatever damage has occurred at the earliest possible opportunity.
It is obviously difficult to know in this particular case, pending the outcome of any further investigations by An Garda Síochána, what may have been the motivation behind what occurred. As noted already, such incidents can represent intentional vandalism or simply a lack of understanding and appreciation of our heritage. On behalf of the Minister, I appeal to everyone to demonstrate appropriate respect towards our national monuments and also to be vigilant about protecting these monuments so we can be sure they will be there for future generations to visit and enjoy.
Deputy Eric Byrne: I thank Minister of State very much. I am very conscious he is familiar with the mountain ranges of Ireland and that he is keen to protect our national heritage. He will see from the photograph that what happened required the movement of quite a substantial amount of the walls of the passage grave. He will see the entranceway to the grave. I am interested to learn it was rebuilt in the 1950s. Perhaps we can reinstate it to some degree of authenticity. The Minister of State mentioned there are loose stones. These cairns all comprise loose stones. The report I received recently that the cairn at Fairy Castle has been interfered with is particularly worrying, as there may be an attempt to interfere with these national monuments throughout the Dublin and Wicklow Mountains. In particular, Seefin, which is a phenomenal passage grave, should not suffer any further damage.
Will the Minister of State address the question of the responsible use of motorbikes and scramblers and the desecration of these very important sites? The Wicklow Way is a phenomenal development and attracts tourists from all over the world. The mountains are becoming more and more open to people who walk them and enjoy the scenery, vistas and knowledge that they are standing close by burial grounds which are perhaps 5,000 or 6,000 years old. This must be treated in the most serious way and these sites must be protected not only for this generation of Irish people, but generations to come. We owe these passage graves and cairns absolute respect as something we have inherited from as far back as 5,000 or 6,000 years ago.
Deputy Jimmy Deenihan: Again, I thank Deputy for raising this matter. Over the past five years we have walked most of the mountain ranges of Ireland with some of our colleagues, and I know he has a real passionate and genuine interest in archaeology and the protection of our uplands. I thank him very much for that. I am confident the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht is particularly pleased to see a demonstration of such interest in this central part of her brief as Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, and a matter which all Members of the House will, no doubt, consider to be of great public interest. She wishes these sentiments to be conveyed to the Deputy.
I again assure the Deputy that all appropriate steps are being taken in this case. As serious as the matter undoubtedly is, it appears, based on the information so far available, that the matter can be remedied.
As has been outlined, the National Monuments Acts 1930 to 2004 provide robust protection for our most important national monuments, and the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht is absolutely determined to enforce these provisions, working in close co-operation with other authorities, particularly An Garda Síochána. The investigation of the present case is at an early stage but the Minister can say happily that the past experience of her Department has been that An Garda Síochána takes such incidents very seriously and works with determination to resolve them.
The National Monuments Acts provide for the erection of signs at national monuments of which the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht is owner or guardian. The actual erection and maintenance of such signs is a matter for the Office of Public Works. In regard to this particular case, the Minister will discuss with the Office of Public Works whether there is a need for any additional signage at the monument. That could help, as some people do not realise the value of these particular sites. I will also bring to her attention the issue of motorbike and scrambler usage in those areas.
Cycling Policy – 24 Sept. 2015
- Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport given that Roscommon County Council has secured an acceptable route for the greenway between Athlone and Ballinasloe by taking the approach that I had suggested to the Minister in Parliamentary Question No. 7 of 17 June 2015, if he will now request Fáilte Ireland, the National Roads Authority and Galway County Council to map a route between Ballinasloe and Galway, by utilising publicly owned lands and the existing rights of way; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32613/15]
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): I am currently awaiting a report from the National Roads Authority and Galway County Council on the feasibility of the current preferred route and I do not wish to pre-empt the outcome of the consultation that has taken place. The design teams have at all times been trying to avail of publicly owned land to create a product that is segregated, safe and scenic. It was possible in Roscommon to avail of Coillte and Bordna Mona lands. However, even with that, 40% is through privately owned lands. The design team in Galway have been working to exactly the same objectives and directions as the team in Roscommon. The facts are that there are no publicly owned lands within the corridor that connects the towns and villages of Ballinasloe, Aughrim, Kilreekil, Loughrea, Craughwell, Clarinbridge and Oranmore.
It must be remembered that a greenway is not simply a method of getting from A to B, for example, putting the route alongside the old N6 route would not be appealing to tourists looking to sample the delights of rural Ireland. They are not coming here with their bicycles or hiring bicycles to cycle alongside a road – the route needs to be attractive in its own right. It must also link in with towns or villages every 20 kilometres. The benefits of greenways to rural towns can be seen most effectively in Newport, County Mayo, which has been regenerated through the huge numbers using the Great Western Greenway with cafés and a hotel opening to meet demand.
Dail Debates & Questions July 2015
(1) Natural Heritage Areas
(2) Commonage Division
(3) Planning Issues
(4) Tourism Funding – Boyneside Trail
(5) Wicklow Cycleway Funding
(1) Natural Heritage Areas Designation 7th July 2015
- Deputy SeánKyne asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the total area designated exclusively as natural heritage areas, without any additional designation as special areas of conservation or special protection areas. [27701/15]
- Deputy SeánKyne asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the process that must be adhered to in order to designate a natural heritage area; if any such areas have been de-designated in the past ten years; if a compensating designation mechanism can be explored to enable a de-designation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27702/15]
Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Heather Humphreys): I propose to take Questions Nos. 614 and 615 together.
The process for the designation of sites as natural heritage areas is set out in the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000. Under the provisions of section 16 of the Act, the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht forms the intention to designate a natural heritage area, while the making of a natural heritage area order is carried out under the provisions of section 18.
Natural heritage areas are legally protected from damage from the date they are formally proposed for designation through a requirement to obtain my consent, as Minister, before certain potentially damaging activities are undertaken on the sites.
75 raised bogs, which are located mainly in the midlands, have been given legal protection as natural heritage areas, covering some 23,000 hectares. A further 73 blanket bogs, covering 37,000 hectares, mostly in western areas, are also designated as natural heritage areas.
While some natural heritage areas exist entirely or partly within candidate special areas of conservation or special protection areas, my Department estimates that some 45,873 hectares of land is solely designated within natural heritage areas.
In addition, there are 630 proposed natural heritage areas. While a review of these sites is foreseen, this will not take place in the immediate future, having regard to the available resources.
There have been no natural heritage areas de-designated in the last ten years.
In January 2014, the Review of Raised Bog Natural Heritage Area Network was published and concluded that Ireland could more effectively achieve conservation of threatened raised bog habitat through focused protection and restoration of a reconfigured network. This will entail the phasing out of turf-cutting on certain natural heritage areas by 1 January 2017 and the partial or complete de-designation of certain natural heritage areas.
46 natural heritage areas (including parts of 7 natural heritage areas) are scheduled for de-designation. To compensate for the loss of habitat within these sites where it is proposed that turf cutting can continue, 25 undesignated raised bogs, which are in public ownership or where there is reduced turf cutting pressure, will be designated as natural heritage areas. Compensation will be made available to affected turf cutters.
Regulatory change will be required to give full effect to the de-designation of the sites. The appropriate form of this change is being considered within my Department and I expect that the process will be completed by the end of the year.
(2) Commonage Division – 8 th July 2015
- Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if shareholders can apply to him for the compulsory partition of commonage, where there is a majority agreement, but not a unanimous agreement, for the division by shareholders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27760/15]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): My Department has no role in the transfer of land ownership and, therefore, any application for a compulsory partition of any commonage is a matter that should be addressed to the Courts.
(3) Planning Issues – 8th July 2015
- Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the average length of time An BordPleanála takes to decide a planning appeal and how this compares with each of the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27793/15]
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Paudie Coffey): Under Section 126 of the Planning and Development Act 2000-2014, An BordPleanála has a statutory objective to determine appeals within 18 weeks. Where the Board does not consider it possible or appropriate to reach a decision within 18 weeks (e.g. because of delays arising from the holding of an oral hearing), it will inform the parties of the reasons for this, and will indicate when it intends to make its decision. The compliance rate with the statutory objective period, and the average length of time taken by An BordPleanála to determine appeals over the last five years, is set out in the following table:
|Year||Average Length of Time to Process Appeal (weeks||Compliance with Statutory Objective Period|
|2015 (end June)||16||78%|
* Note: The 2012 figures arose primarily due to the reduced number of Board Members (down to 4 of a maximum of 10) for much of 2012 due to a time interval between the expiration of terms of outgoing Board
(4) Tourism Project Funding – 14th July 2015
- Deputy Dominic Hannigan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will provide an update on the Boyne Greenway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29048/15]
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): Officials from my Department, along with the Minister of State, Deputy Nash, met representatives of the Boyneside Trail group earlier this year to discuss this project. The meeting was constructive in that my officials outlined a clear path to the group to assist in bringing the project to the next step.
At that stage no detailed design work had been done on the project. My officials undertook to arrange for the group to meet the National Transport Authority to pursue NTA funding for the design works through Meath County Council. I understand that a meeting took place with the NTA, which subsequently visited the project site and agreed to provide design and planning funding of €40,000.
This funding, which was drawn down in April or May, will bring the project to a stage where Meath County Council can make a decision on the feasibility of the project and whether they will back the project through an application to the Department for Greenway funding in the normal way.
The NTA is keeping in touch with the project on the design spend and will update the Department on progress. Until this work is complete, there is no viable project backed by the County Council to consider for funding.
(5) Cycling Facilities Funding Wicklow – 15th July 2015
Deputy Andrew Doyle: I wish to raise the issue of funding for a cycleway or walkway in what is known as the greenway in Blessington, specifically, for phase 2 of the project. I will set out some of the background. One objective of the Wicklow Outdoor Recreation Strategy 2009-2013 was to explore the potential of new trails in west Wicklow. A feasibility study was carried out in 2010 and the Pollaphuca Reservoir area, which forms part of the greenway, was identified as a flagship project. More recently, Fáilte Ireland developed a destination development strategy for Kildare and Wicklow and launched a new brand identity for the region. Subsequently, this was incorporated into the Ireland’s ancient east initiative. All are very welcome.
A map shows clearly that this project is sited in the main around Pollaphuca Reservoir. The area is almost entirely owned by the ESB. Irish Water is now involved among the other stakeholders, as is Wicklow County Council. There are others including BirdWatch Ireland which works on potential nature reserves.
A comprehensive scoping study was carried out. It was identified that there could be up to three extra phases. The initial phase was carried out under the auspices of the Blessington and District Forum and ran to 6.5 km. It was opened by the Minister’s predecessor in February 2014. Ironically, on the same day, a new car park facility was opened at Russborough House, down the road. Part of the proposed phase 2 includes a 2 km spur to Russborough House. There has been controversy over the sale of paintings in Russborough House recently and among of the problems identified was the lack of footfall and the need to improve visitor numbers. This extension would have added to that, although it is not the primary reason for it.
The proposal was further assessed by a Fáilte Ireland assessment team in early 2014. The assessment team was shown detailed plans for the greenway following Wicklow County Council’s application for funding under the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport national cycle network funding scheme for local authorities. A total of 38 projects proposed by local authorities were funded. Unfortunately, the Blessington proposal, which finished among the top two, was not. Essentially, that is why I am in the House raising the topic.
An economic impact assessment took place when the Blessington and District Forum began the project in 2011. It estimated that between domestic, overseas and local residents the economic boost in a year would be of the order of €7 million. This project stands up to scrutiny. It stood up to the expert assessment team’s scrutiny. It can be completed in a year. It is shovel-ready. All the various issues have been boxed off. There are some selected alternative routes which would shorten the route somewhat and take out some of the more expensive and problematic or challenging routes. Phase 2, with the amended route, would bring the total route from 6.5 km to 34.5 km, an increase of 28 km in the length of the cycleway or walkway.
We all know the value of these facilities. We are trying to encourage outdoor activities. This route goes around the lakes and links some of the villages, including Ballyknockan and Ballymount – Ballyknockan is known as the granite village. It also links to Avon Rí, a tourist resort and there is the spur to Russborough House as well. The project is well worth funding, whatever way we have to do it. I believe it stands up to scrutiny. I call on the Minister to seriously consider the matter, whether it involves working with other agencies or entities to try to secure the funding.
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): I thank Deputy Doyle for raising this matter. I am fully aware of the value of these projects. I have had the opportunity to experience a number of these cycleways and I have visited many of them throughout the country. One of the challenges I face is that in so many different counties and local authorities there is a strong demand for greenway projects like this. The script that is being handed to Deputy Doyle states that at the moment I have no additional funding for the coming period to allocate to new projects. It acknowledges that in recent years we have allocated many millions for greenway projects. A total of €6.3 million was made available last year to three local authorities for the delivery of three greenway projects. A further 11 greenway proposals were submitted by local authorities to share in stimulus funding, and €10 million was made available for the delivery of greenways.
I believe strongly in and I am passionate about the delivery of a system of integrated greenways across the country. A small number are under way but we want to get more under way. I am working within my Department to see whether we can come up with a framework within the constraints of the funding that is available to us such that we can better support and fund a number of greenways across the country.
There will be opportunities in future, particularly for Border counties, to apply for funding under the new programmes for cross-border co-operation and the EU PEACE programme. These funding programmes will be in place between 2014 and 2020. Alongside these it may be possible for some groups to secure funding via the Leader programme, which will at least allows proposals to be progressed up to design stage.
I am aware that this project is already designed and that Deputy Doyle is seeking funding to move it to construction, or, at least to move the next phase to construction. While I am not in a position to say I have funding available at the moment to do that, I accept the real value of projects like this and I am working at the moment to see whether there is some framework or way in which we would be able to fund these projects over of a number of years to enable more of them to be realised. I have seen the extraordinary benefits these projects deliver in the communities and the local authorities that have executed them not only from a tourism point of view but also in terms of sustainable transport and the way they serve as catalysts for local economic development. For example, I have seen the effect the greenway in Mayo has had on a community like Newport. I am keen to see these effects replicated throughout the country. In the time left open to me in this role and in the Dáil I am keen to find some way to support projects like that.
Deputy Andrew Doyle: I know the Minister is keen to get projects like this under way. We both dabbled in the greenway when we were in Westport at a party event some years ago. I am interested in what the Minister said about the INTERREG funding. He referred to the PEACE initiative and cross-border initiatives, whether they involved Northern Ireland or the United Kingdom. Not too far away from the greenway is the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation. It is stretching it a little but, at the same time, it has been involved in many projects that have brought people together from all over the planet from areas of conflict. Often this happens under the radar. The former director said once that in Glencree people can get things done or take credit for them, but they can seldom do both. It is a place that goes somewhat under the radar. It gets funding from the Ireland Fund and elsewhere. Perhaps some linkage could be established if all that is needed is imagination.
There are really no land-ownership issues affecting the greenway. Everything can be accommodated, including the nature reserves and the bringing of people to the area. It is in west Wicklow, which tends not to do as well as the east coast. It does reasonably well but could do better. I ask the Minister to keep the project on the agenda with a view to having it on the list if funding is available.
Deputy Paschal Donohoe: The kind of project to which the Deputy is referring is one of which I am very much aware. We have made some progress on similar projects in some parts of the country. I hope that as our economy continues to improve, we will find funding to support projects such as the one referred to by the Deputy. However, I am not in a position today to say the funding is currently available. With regard to the Deputy’s specific question on the use of INTERREG funding and funding through the PEACE IV programme, the eligibility criteria are unlikely to be directly applicable to the Deputy’s county. The programmes could be of great help, however, in that an opportunity could arise under them to seek co-funding for projects we want to fund in other parts of the country, which in turn would free up capacity in other parts of the country. That is where I hope a benefit would accrue for the kind of project to which the Deputy referred. Consider the opportunity both of us had on Monday afternoon to see the extraordinary 16.5 km of new motorway that will enable greater contact between the Deputy’s county and the rest of the country. It would be great if we were able to use the infrastructure in a way that would allow people to sample and enjoy an even greater variety of tourist experiences in the area. I have no doubt that a project such as the one in question would be one of these. Although I cannot make funding available for it at present, I hope that, over time, we will find a way to make progress on it.
Dail Debates & Questions June 2015
(1) Cycling Facilities – West Clare Railway
(2) Planning Issues – Donegal and Wicklow
(3) Rights of Way & County Development Plans
(4) National Heritage Plan – Walks Scheme
(1) Cycling Facilities Provision – 10 June 2015
- Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will report on progress on the development of a greenway along the route of the old west Clare Railway between Ennis and Ennistymon in County Clare; if agreement has been reached with landowners on the four individual planned sections; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21467/15]
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): The West Clare Greenway project has four Phases: Phase 1 Ennis to Ballymaquiggin townland (4.5km approx); Phase 2 Ballymaquiggin townland to Corofin (15km approx); Phase 3 Corofin to Ennistymon (18km approx); and Phase 4 Ennistymon to Lahinch (4km approx)
The Part 8 process for Phase 1 has been completed and approval granted, detailed design undertaken and a tender advertised for Phase 1 Contract 1 – approx. 3km of the 4.5km overall route. This first 3km runs from Ennis town centre to and through Lees Road Sports Grounds. It is anticipated that construction will commence in late June 2015. Discussions are ongoing in relation to access and repairs to the old Railway line, its boundaries, accommodation works etc. No agreements are in place as yet. It is anticipated that a Phase 1 Contract 2 to complete the remaining 1.5km could commence in the Autumn subject to agreement being reached regarding land issues.
No design work has taken place on Phases 2 and 3. Research into land ownership has been undertaken to determine private ownership and CIE ownership. To date no contact has been made with landowners and no funding is in place for these sections.
Phase 4 is already in place and was delivered with funding provided by my Department under the 2012-2013 National Cycle Network funding programme. This section is operational as a widened footpath linking Ennistymon to Lahinch – with information boards and cycle stands in place in both towns.
2) Planning Issues – Donegal & Wicklow – 11 June 2015
- Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the terms of reference for the inquiry into planning matters in County Donegal which he has established and if such an inquiry will be in a position to question current and former members of Donegal County Council. [22067/15]
Deputy Brian Stanley: My question concerns the terms of reference of the inquiry into planning matters into Donegal. Will the inquiry be in a position to question current and former members and current and former staff of Donegal County Council?
Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Alan Kelly): On 14 June 2013, the High Court made an order quashing that part of my Department’s planning review report of 2012 relating to Donegal following a settlement between my Department and the party concerned who had brought judicial review proceedings in respect of that part of the report. The matter has been disposed of to the satisfaction of both sides. In light of these proceedings, my Department subsequently sought the advice of the Attorney General on how best to proceed in the case of issues raised relating to planning matters in Donegal.
I have now considered what next steps need to be taken in this regard, taking account of advice from the Office of the Attorney General. In that context, my Department is finalising arrangements for the imminent appointment on a non-statutory basis of a senior counsel nominated by the Attorney General to prepare a report relating to the matters concerned. This report will be prepared in line with terms of reference which have been agreed in consultation with the Attorney General’s office.
The arrangements involved in the preparation of the report will be announced in due course. It will be a matter for the appointed senior counsel to determine how best to undertake the preparation of the report relating to these matters, including engagement with any relevant persons. I would expect that the same person will engage with all relevant parties in order to deal with this issue in a satisfactory way.
Deputy Brian Stanley: The Minister said he was about to appoint a senior counsel to examine the irregularities complained about in Donegal and that this would be done on a non-statutory basis. The consultants examining the other six counties under scrutiny were appointed on a statutory basis, so why is this being done on a non-statutory basis? The Minister said he was in discussions with the Attorney General about the terms of reference, that the senior counsel would put those together and that they would be published, but the terms of reference for the senior counsel heading this up are of the utmost importance. There could be very different outcomes depending on the terms of reference and the areas that are looked at. Can the Minister also tell us what authority the senior counsel will have to call and question former officials and relevant persons who are the subject of complaints and who have now finished their employment with Donegal County Council?
Deputy Alan Kelly: I have no reason to believe that the senior counsel will not get the full co-operation of everyone. I am satisfied that proceeding on a non-statutory basis is probably the most efficient and quickest way of dealing with this. I note that there was full co-operation relating to the previous review, even though this report was then the subject of High Court proceedings. In the unlikely event that there is some issue with co-operation, I have no issue reconsidering it and putting it on a statutory basis, but I want to get this done as quickly as possible so we can get to the bottom of the issues once and for all.
My Department is currently engaging with senior counsel nominated by the Attorney General. Obviously there is a lot of preparatory work to be done, and a fee proposal relating to the work is imminent. Subject to agreement on that, we will be in a position to announce the person who will carry out the review.
Deputy Brian Stanley: I thank the Minister for that reply, but I must say that people who are no longer in the employment of the council may not feel as compelled to co-operate with any inquiry. Any investigation that does not question these individuals would not be of much use.
A number of serious allegations have been made by a former planner, Gerard Convie. A total of 20 cases have been sent to the Department. Will the inquiry investigate those cases? Serious allegations are also being made in respect of the Greystones area in Wicklow. Will there be any investigation into them?
We were promised that the office of the planning regulator would be established, as recommended by the Mahon tribunal. When are we likely to see this?
Deputy Alan Kelly: The legislation for the office of the planning regulator will be coming through in the autumn. Subsequent to the passing of that legislation, the office will be put in place, which is something I presume the Deputy welcomes.
The case of Wicklow is under thorough consideration by my Department and I expect to be able to make some comments on that in the very near future. The Deputy knows that I cannot go into the allegations to which he referred, but the process we are putting in place will ensure that it is dealt with as efficiently and quickly as possible. As the Deputy is aware, it has been going on for some time. I believe that what we have put in place is the best way of dealing with it. Of course, we will constantly review it, but we are expecting full co-operation from all those involved. My Department has already written to the chief executive of Donegal County Council advising him of the appointment of a senior counsel. As soon as the contract is signed and the senior counsel is in place, we will ensure everybody is written to as part of this process.
(3) Rights of Way Provision – 11 June 2015
- Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the reason disputed rights-of-way were allowed to be included in Draft County Development Plans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22804/15]
Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Alan Kelly): Section 14 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 provides for a process for the inclusion by planning authorities of public rights of way in development plans. The process provides for the referral to the Circuit Court, by the landowner affected, of a proposal to include a right of way and where the court is satisfied that no right of way exists, the planning authority may not include it in its development plan. Section 14(7) provides that “the inclusion of a public right of way in a development plan shall be evidence of the existence of such a right unless the contrary is shown”.
The question of whether a public right of way exists is therefore ultimately a matter for the courts to determine.
(4) National Heritage Plan – Walks Scheme- 16 June 2015
- Deputy Derek Nolan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide funding to allow a walkway (details supplied) in County Galway to be included in the walks scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22969/15]
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Ann Phelan): There are now 39 trails covered by the Walks Scheme. In 201 4 annual payments to participants who maintained sections of trail that traversed their lands were in the region of €1.8m. The number of participants on the scheme currently stands at 1,896. Unfortunately, due to budgetary constraints it has not been possible to develop new walks under the existing Walks Scheme. My Department is, however, keeping the matter under review.
Dail Debates & Questions May 2015
(1) Planning Issues – Unauthorised Development
(2) Planning Issues – Donegal
(3) Mountain Rescue
(4) Rights of Way Provision – Kerry Development Plan
(5) Planning Issues – Co Wicklow
(1) Planning Issues -12 May 2015
- Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if the Statute of Limitations applies to planning cases of non compliance-enforcement, where the local authority has contacted the offender, but has taken no further action; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18508/15]
Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Alan Kelly): Section 157(4)(a) of the Planning and Development Act 2000 provides, in respect of unauthorised development, that no warning letter or enforcement notice may be issued by, and no proceedings for an offence may be commenced by, a planning authority – (i) in respect of a development where no permission has been granted, after seven years from the date of the commencement of the development; (ii) in respect of a development for which permission was granted, after seven years beginning on the duration of the permission.
These times limits do not, however, apply in respect of the enforcement of conditions concerning the use of land to which a permission is subject.
Longer time limits apply in respect of unauthorised development for quarrying or peat extraction purposes as set out section 157(4)(aa) and (ab) of the Act.
Similar time limits to those outlined in section 157(4)(a) apply in section 160 in relation to an application to the Circuit Court or the High Court by any person for an order in relation to unauthorised development.
(2) Planning Issues – 26 May 2015
- Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to appoint a barrister to investigate claims of planning irregularities in County Donegal; the terms of the inquiry; and if the person appointed and/or that person’s team will meet with a person (details supplied) who has made a series of claims regarding planning issues in County Donegal over the years. [20395/15]
Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Alan Kelly): I have considered what next steps need to be taken in respect of certain Donegal County Council planning matters taking account of advice from the Office of the Attorney General. My Department is finalising arrangements for the imminent appointment of a Senior Counsel, on a non-statutory basis, nominated by the Attorney General to prepare a report in relation to these matters in line with terms of reference which have been agreed in consultation with the Office of the Attorney General. The arrangements involved in the preparation of the report will be announced in due course.
(3) Mountain Rescue Service – 27 May 2015
- Deputy Derek Nolan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will increase the financial allocation to Mountain Rescue Ireland and to Galway Mountain Rescue in view of an improving budgetary situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19846/15]
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): My Department recognises and acknowledges the contribution that Galway Mountain Rescue Team and Mountain Rescue Ireland (MRI) make to their communities, and indeed to the general public. As the Deputy is aware, my Department, through the Irish Coast Guard (IRCG), administers a grant for Mountain Rescue Teams (MRTs), including Galway MRT and MRI. Other voluntary search and rescue groups in receipt of grant funding from my Department include the Irish Cave Rescue Organisation (ICRO), Search and Rescue Dog Association (SARDA) and 12 individual Community Rescue Boat (CRBIs) teams. In 2014 a total of €250,000 was paid in grants to these voluntary organisations. I can confirm that the grants are being maintained at this level for the current year also. In addition, in 2014 my Department granted a special once-off capital grant of €200,000 to Mountain Rescue Ireland, the all-island overarching body responsible for mountain rescue, for the purchase of vehicles which I believe was drawn down just last week.
As I have previously indicated to the House, MRTs are not tasked directly by the IRCG, rather they are tasked by An Garda Síochána, which comes under the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality. While I accept the vital nature of the commitment made by these voluntary groups, I believe that within the IRCG, budgetary priority must be given to the primary responsibility of providing a marine emergency response service. The IRCG has a responsibility to equip and train approx. 918 Volunteers from 44 Volunteer Units around the Country. Each Unit is subject to operational readiness audits to ensure they are positioned to provide a safe and effective service.
Therefore, with the current and competing pressures among the budgets in my portfolio, I cannot commit to any increase in funding at this present moment.
(4) Rights of Way Provision – Kerry Development Plan 27 May 2015
- Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position regarding access at a location (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20975/15]
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Paudie Coffey): I understand from Kerry County Council that 4 rights of way in this area were proposed for inclusion in their Development Plan pursuant to section 14 of the Planning and Development Act 2000. However in relation to one of these, the landowner has appealed the matter to the Circuit Court, as permitted by section 14.
This is a matter for Kerry County Council, and the Courts, and I have no role in relation to it.
(5) Planning Issues – Public Lands Co Wicklow 27/5/15
- Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he is aware of complaints regarding the manner in which public lands at Charlesland in Greystones in County Wicklow, potentially worth in excess of €20 million, were handed over to developers (details supplied) in 2003/2004 without any consultation with elected members of the Wicklow County Council or any formal disposal of land; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21007/15]
- Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he is aware of allegations that a recently retired Wicklow county manager and a county councillor (details supplied), were involved in the signing of contracts for the exchange of public lands at Charlesland in County Wicklow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21008/15]
- Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he is aware of a complaint regarding the controversial intervention of his predecessor (details supplied) to stop a High Court action in late 2011, which prevented controversial information of alleged corruption by authorised officers of Wicklow County Council from emerging in evidence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21010/15]
- Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he is aware of complaints regarding the involvement of Wicklow County Council officials, public representatives and agencies, including the Industrial Development Agency and the National Roads Authority, in preventing a person (details supplied) from developing a data centre, for which that person had planning permission, at Newtownmountkennedy in County Wicklow from 2009 to 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21011/15]
- Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he has received complaints regarding the disappearance of a file relating to allegations of possible planning corruption in County Wicklow from his Department in September 2014, which was handed into his Department by a person (details supplied) on 2 September 2014; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21012/15]
- Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on complaints that a file relating to allegations of possible planning corruption in County Wicklow, which was delivered to his office and placed in his in-tray, was taken from his office during the night, without authorisation and before he had an opportunity to read it; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21013/15]
- Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he is aware of statements that he ordered a search of his Department’s offices, to be headed up by the Secretary General of his Department and the head of departmental security, to discover the whereabouts of a missing file; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21014/15]
- Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the reason he did not instigate a Garda Síochána investigation into the taking of documents from his office in September 2014, in view of the fact that a search of his Department for the file was unsuccessful and in view of the fact that at the time this file was taken from his office there would have been other critical files relating to the budget. [21015/15]
Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Alan Kelly): I propose to take Questions Nos. 191, 192 and 194 to 199, inclusive, together.
The papers concerned were not stolen or removed from my office without authorisation, but were inadvertently placed with other papers and were subsequently found after a period of time. Accordingly, no Garda or other inquiry was required.
I have received correspondence in relation to the complaints referred to, which is being considered. A reply will be issued in due course.
Dail Debates & Questions April 2015
(1) Cycling Policy
(2) Wild Atlantic Way
(3) Conservation Rangers
(4) National Landscape Strategy
(5) Planning Issues
(1) Cycling Policy – 15 April 2015
- Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the actions he has taken to increase the number of cyclists; and his future plans in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13915/15]
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): The Government set out its commitment to invest in the National Cycle Policy in the Programme for Government. The National Cycle Policy calls for a wide programme of actions including investment in cycling infrastructure and soft measures to promote cycling.
Since the introduction of the National Cycle Policy my Department has been administering ongoing funding to local authorities, under a number of initiatives, for the development of urban cycle lanes, greenway cycling trails and progressing the development of a national cycle network.
Since the introduction of the National Cycle Policy my Department has been administering ongoing funding to local authorities, under a number of initiatives, for the development of urban cycle lanes, greenway cycling trails and progressing the development of a national cycle network.
Under the National Cycle Network Funding Programme 2014-2016 three projects shared in €6.3 million for the delivery of greenways in Kerry, Galway and Waterford. A further 11 greenway or cycleway projects were awarded funding under the €200 million Government Stimulus Package for infrastructural development, €10 million of which was earmarked for the development of greenways. Details of the projects funded can be viewed on the Department’s website, www.smartertravel.ie.
The National Transport Authority is responsible for the delivery of cycling infrastructure for the Greater Dublin Region and are investing €13.3 million in projects in Dublin, Kildare, Meath and Wicklow during 2015.I am forwarding a copy of the Deputy’s question to the NTA for direct response with regard to details of the projects being funding during 2015. If he has not received a response within 10 working days, he should contact my office.
In addition to funding new on and off-road cycle routes, my Department and the NTA have worked with the local authorities in Dublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick on the introduction and roll-out of the Coke Zero Public Bikes Scheme. Stations and bikes currently in place are as follows: Dublin – 100 stations (1,500) bikes; Cork – 31 stations (330 bikes); Galway – 19 stations (195 bikes); and Limerick – 23 stations (215 bikes).
Along with this substantial capital investment, my Department supports a number of initiatives to promote and develop cycling such as Bike Week, the smarter travel workplaces project and the Green Schools Travel programme. Under the Active Travel Towns programme 2014 to 2016, nine towns will benefit from the investment of €6.5 million in infrastructure and other interventions that support sustainable transport including cycling. In addition, in 2012 Limerick ,Dungarvan and Westport were awarded a total of €23 million under the Smarter Travel Areas, a five-year programme to support a modal shift from the car to walking and cycling through the development of walking and cycling infrastructure and other intervention measures. The Government is committed to achieving the ambitious target of having 10% of journeys carried out by bicycle by 2020.
(2) Wild Atlantic Way Project – 15th April 2015
- Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will examine correspondence (details supplied) regarding a request that the entire coastal area of Valentia Island in County Kerry be included in the designated map of the Wild Atlantic Way, as the whole island has spectacular panoramic scenery, and it is imperative that this be demonstrated on the guideline map to illustrate all the varied vantage points on the island; if he will address this matter before the onset of the peak tourism season; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14074/15]
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): While my Department provides the capital funding for investment in tourism offerings such as the Wild Atlantic Way, it is not directly involved in developing or managing these. The development of the Wild Atlantic Way is an operational matter for Fáilte Ireland. Accordingly I have referred the question to the agency for direct reply. Please contact my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 days.
The Deputy should be aware that the route of the Wild Atlantic Way was developed using a collaborative approach and regional steering groups were convened to inform route development. The steering groups comprised Fáilte Ireland, local authorities, local LEADER and Development companies and other key agencies such as UdarásnaGaeltachta, the Western Development Commission and others as relevant to each particular region.
It is important for communities to note that the Wild Atlantic Way is not simply a touring route but a means to guide and attract visitors to particular areas. All villages, businesses and geographic areas within close proximity of the route are in essence part of the geography of the Wild Atlantic Way. The purpose of the route is to give guidance to visitors as to what there is to see on our western coast, provide easy access to a range of experiences and so enable local businesses to take advantage of the benefits of the Way. My advice to communities on and near to the Wild Atlantic Way is to focus on how to use the route to generate more tourism revenue and not to focus on specific details of the route.
(3) Conservation Rangers – 15th April 2015
- Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if she will provide, in tabular form, the number of conservation rangers that are employed, by county; the criteria that determines the allocation, per county; if sufficient efforts are being made to fill any vacancies which currently exist; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14668/15]
Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Heather Humphreys): The distribution of conservation rangers by county is set out in the table.
Rangers are deployed through a regional structure. While the table above indicates the county where the conservation rangers’ headquarters office is located, their assignments do not necessarily coincide with individual county boundaries and are determined in light of Departmental business needs and priorities. Staffing levels across my Department are kept under regular review in line with emerging business needs and Government policy on public sector pay and staffing as advised by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.
(4) National Landscape Strategy – 15th April 2015
- Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the status and planned implementation schedule for the National Landscape Strategy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14734/15]
Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Heather Humphreys): As I previously outlined in my reply to the Deputy’s Question No. 1003 of 24 March, 2015, my proposal to publish the National Landscape Strategy 2015-2025 was approved by Government recently. The Strategy will assist in meeting our obligations under the European Landscape Convention, which was ratified by Ireland in 2002 and came into effect on 1 March 2004.
It is intended that the Strategy will be published and launched in the coming weeks. The Strategy includes a draft implementation programme which will take place on a phased basis over the lifetime of the Strategy.
(5) Planning Issues -23rd April 2015
- Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans for investigations into planning in six local authorities and County Donegal, arising from the June 2013 High Court case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15772/15]
Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Alan Kelly): MacCabeDurney Barnes Consultants were appointed in February 2014 to carry out an independent planning review on the performance of planning functions in six selected planning authorities (Carlow, Cork, Galway and Meath County Councils and Cork and Dublin City Councils) in accordance with section 255 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended. I expect to receive the final report from the consultants shortly and I subsequently intend to publish it having considered its contents.
I have also considered what next steps need to be taken in respect of certain Donegal County Council planning matters taking account of advice from the Office of the Attorney General. My Department will be shortly appointing a Senior Counsel nominated by the Attorney General to prepare a report in relation to these matters and I expect that the timeframe for this appointment will be finalised shortly.
Dail Debates & Questions up to12 March 2015
(1) Planning Issues
(2) Rights of Way Provision (see Facebook page)
(3) Planning Issues
(4) Coillte – Car Park Facilities
(5) Trail Maintenance
(6) Planning Issues
(9) National Parks – Fencing
(10) National Parks – SAC’s
(11) Inland Waterways
(1) Planning Issues – 3 March 2015
Procedures for Unauthorised Development Cases
- Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the responsibilities that exist for local authorities to ensure houses are built in full compliance with the planning permission granted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9024/15]
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Paudie Coffey): The Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, places clear statutory obligations on planning authorities in relation to unauthorised development. Where a planning authority receives a written complaint regarding an unauthorised development, or otherwise becomes aware of unauthorised development (except in the case of trivial or minor development), it is required to issue a warning letter in relation to the unauthorised development concerned.
In addition, planning authorities are statutorily obliged to carry out an investigation and expeditiously decide whether an enforcement notice should be issued or a court order should be sought, under section 160 of the 2000 Act. Where a planning authority establishes, following an investigation, that unauthorised development (other than development that is of a trivial or minor nature) has been or is being carried out, and the person who has carried out the development has not proceeded to remedy the position, then the planning authority must issue an enforcement notice or seek a court order, unless there are compelling reasons for not doing so. Furthermore, the planning authority’s decision on whether to issue an enforcement notice must be entered on the planning register and, in cases where it is decided not to issue an enforcement notice, any complainant must be so informed.
With regard to the completion of housing estates and other residential developments generally, my Department’s Circular Letter PD 1/08 on the Taking in Charge of Residential Developments/Management Arrangements which issued to planning authorities in February 2008 states that:
“Ensuring that residential developments are completed in accordance with the planning permission is an essential part of a comprehensive taking in charge policy. It is important that the construction of the development be regularly inspected by the planning authority to ensure satisfactory completion in accordance with the permission. It is also necessary for the planning authority to satisfy itself, when the developer has ceased construction or notified the planning authority that construction is complete, or after the planning permission has expired, that the development is properly completed in line with the planning permission and, where it is not properly completed, to take early and effective enforcement action.”
Circular Letter PD 1/08 was incorporated into my Department’s Planning Guidelines on Sustainable Residential Development in Urban Areas which issued to planning authorities in January 2009. These Guidelines were issued under section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 and accordingly, planning authorities are statutorily required to have regard to them in the performance of their functions under the Act.
(2) Rights of Way Provision – 3 March 2015
- Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the position whereby a lake or river of national importance is surrounded or bordered by land in private ownership and in that context, whether the right of access by members of the general public to the lakeshore can be restricted or circumscribed by the landowners concerned and the extent to which this will be enforced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9277/15]
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Ann Phelan): The majority of Ireland’s trails and walking routes are “permissive access routes” that have been developed with the agreement of private landowners, both public and private. This consensus approach is underpinned by the principle of mutual respect between landowners and recreation users, with the acceptance of the rights of landowners regarding access to their land and the need of recreation users to have reasonable access to the countryside.
Unless a public right of way exists, access to any lake or river which is surrounded or bordered by land in private ownership, is at the discretion of the landowner, and the extent to which access by members of the public to the features referred to in the Question is permitted, is within the control of the landowner.
(3) Planning Issues – 4 March 2015 – Right to Appeal
- Deputy Patrick O’Donovan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will carry out a review of the current planning regulations, where State funded third-parties will lodge appeals to An BordPleanála in respect of planning applications which have been assessed by the local authority in compliance with local, regional and national planning guidelines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8867/15]
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Paudie Coffey): An appeal mechanism is a fundamental feature of the planning system: the applicant and any person who makes a submission on a planning application may appeal the decision of a planning authority to An BordPleanála, the independent statutory appeals board. AnBordPleanála, in determining an appeal, reviews the entire case having regard to the same matters as the planning authority was required to have regard to in the first instance. As it is required to, the Board reaches its own determination on the matter, in line with the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.
While the provisions of the Planning and Development Acts and Regulations are generally kept under review in my Department, I have no plans to amend the legislation to restrict the right of appeal, or to limit the rights of third parties to participate in the planning process, which have been an integral part of the modern planning code since its inception in 1963.
(4) CoillteTeoranta Lands – 5 March 2015
Car Park Access in Co Wicklow
- Deputy Anne Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the legislative basis under which the opening hours for Coillte operated car parks throughout County Wicklow are operated; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that such car parks may be closed by Coillte at times as early as 4 p.m., including at weekends; if his attention has been further drawn to the adverse restrictions that such inconvenient closing policies may have on tourism in the county and the road traffic impacts caused by visitors avoiding car parks for fear of their cars being inadvertently locked in; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9824/15]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): CoillteTeoranta was established as a private commercial company under the Forestry Act, 1988 and day-to-day operational matters, such as the operation of car parks adjacent to their properties, are the responsibility of the company. Section 37 (1) of the Forestry Act 1988 provides that the Minister with responsibility for Coillte may at the request of the company or on his own behalf make bye-laws to regulate access to or use of any land owned, managed or used by the company. The bye-laws, namely the Forestry Act 1988 (Section 37) (CoillteTeoranta) Bye-laws 2009, made pursuant to that provision apply to those Coillte lands in respect of which a Notice of Application of Bye-laws has been posted in a visible location where the public might reasonably gain entrance to those lands. The bye-laws were made at the request of the company in order to address the problem of anti-social behaviour on Coillte lands.
The issue outlined by the Deputy was, however, raised with Coillte. The company advise that, under their Open Forest policy, access is permissive in nature only and that Coillte have to manage access mindful of risks such as anti-social behaviour after dark in winter. I am advised that the closing times can vary across their Business Area Units which includes County Wicklow and that closing times may change for seasonal reasons , for example, generally in winter they close around 4pm, but this could vary if there is a safety risk, and 9pm in the height of summer. The company further advise that, in some cases, they are dependent on the good will of an adjacent neighbour to close the barrier where the company does not have their own cover, so these times can be outside the norm in winter and summer. Coillte also advise that it works with local Gardaí where required to help manage traffic issues if they arise.
(5) Departmental Schemes – 10 March 2015
- Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his Department’s grant aid scheme to an organisation (details supplied) in County Kerry in 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10435/15]
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Ann Phelan): Under the scheme covering trail maintenance on National Way Marked Ways, an amount of €42,643 was granted to the organisation referred to.
(6) Planning Issues -10 March 2015
- Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 430 of 9 December 2014, if he has any statutory power to initiate an inquiry of any type into the handling of any planning matter by a local authority; if this is the case where serious allegations of planning irregularities have been made such as the concerns expressed in a case (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10536/15]
Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Alan Kelly): Under section 255 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government has certain investigatory powers in relation to the review of the performance by planning authorities of their functions under the Act. These powers are restricted to the review of the organisation and of the systems and procedures used by planning authorities in relation to their functions and they do not extend to the review of individual planning applications.
Section 224 of the Local Government Act 2001 enables the Minister to authorise a person to prepare a report for him or her regarding any matter arising in relation to the performance of functions by a local authority.
I understand that the matter raised relates to a planning applicant who has complained about the handling of two planning applications by Limerick County Council, particularly in relation to pre-application consultations entered into by the person with the Council.
I further understand that the person in question complained about the Council’s handling of his planning applications to the previous Ombudsman who did not find any maladministration by the Council in this matter, and that this decision was upheld on appeal, and again on foot of a further review which the Ombudsman granted as an exceptional matter.
The person subsequently made a further complaint to the current Ombudsman, who found that while there were some failings on behalf of the Council, these did not constitute significant maladministration. I am satisfied that the matters complained of have already been sufficiently investigated by the Office of the Ombudsman on an independent third party basis and consequently that no further investigation of the matter is required.
Under section 30 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, I am specifically precluded from exercising any power or control in relation to any particular planning case with which a planning authority, including An BordPleanala, is or may be concerned. Accordingly I have no function in relation to this matter.
(7) Tourism Industry 10 March 2015
- Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which he expects the tourism industry to grow in the current year, having regard to recent experiences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10521/15]
- Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the extent to which he expects tourism to continue to grow, on foot of the development of the Wild Atlantic Way; the specific markets he has in mind, in this context; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10528/15]
- Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the areas in the tourism sector that have shown the greatest potential for future development and expansion both internally and externally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10531/15]
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): I propose to take Questions Nos. 608, 614 and 617 together.
The latest CSO figures for overseas visitors to Ireland for the period November 2014 to January 2015 are very strong, confirming growth of +9.1% in overseas visits to Ireland compared to the same period in 2013-2014. This continues the strong growth trend seen in 2014, when visit numbers increased by almost 9% for the year.
The Tourism Ireland Business Plan 2015, which was approved at the North South Ministerial Council last week, includes a target for 2015 to increase overseas visits to Ireland by 6%, and increase overseas visitor revenue by 7%. The Business Plan includes a commitment to highlight compelling reasons to visit Ireland in 2015, including the Wild Atlantic Way.
Research that has been carried out on behalf of the tourism agencies and tourism industry has found that certain market segments have a higher likelihood to select Ireland as a destination. These are categorised as follows:
– “Culturally Curious”: Travellers in the over 45 age group taking a holiday with their partner, who wish to expand their experience by exploring new landscapes, history and culture.
– “Great Escapers”: These tend to be younger and are specifically interested in rural holidays. Great Escapers are on holiday to take time out, and experience nature at close range.
– “Social Energisers”: Younger visitors who like to holiday in groups or as couples. They may be friends or colleagues looking for an exciting trip to a new and vibrant destination.
Tourism Ireland’s overseas marketing activity is weighted towards these segments in order to provide the best return on marketing investment.
In the longer term, the new Tourism Policy Statement “People, Place and Policy – Growing Tourism to 2025” will be officially launched later this month. The three headline targets, to be achieved by 2025 are as follows:
– Revenue from overseas tourism, excluding air fares and ferry charges, will rise from €3.3 billion in 2013 to €5 billion per year by 2025 net of inflation,
– 250,000 people employed in tourism by 2025, compared with approximately 200,000 at present.
– Attract ten million overseas visits to Ireland by 2025, compared to 7.6 million for 2014.
I look forward to working with the tourism sector and the tourism agencies to achieve the targets contained in the Policy Statement.
(8) Special Areas of Conservation Designation
10 March 2015
- Deputy Áine Collins asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if she received advice from the Attorney General on whether there is an obligation on the Government to properly compensate farmers in the designated areas whose lands and right to private property under the Constitution have been devalued or made worthless by the designation. [10270/15]
Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Heather Humphreys): In accordance with the relevant legislation, certain activities in sites designated for nature conservation may only be undertaken with my consent, as Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. Compensation may be payable where a person has been refused consent by me for a prescribed activity within a designated site that he or she had been undertaking in the five year period prior to the refusal.
However, compensation or incentive schemes have generally been put in place, where required, without the need to undergo a formal process under the relevant legislation.
As appropriate, where the need arises, advice is sought from the Attorney General.
(9) National Parks and Wildlife Service 10 March
- Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht her plans to ensure that all national parks containing deer have fencing that is stock proof for deer to ensure deer do not leave the national parks and cause severe damage to private property; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10458/15]
Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Heather Humphreys): Wild deer in the State are protected under the Wildlife Acts. They roam freely throughout the countryside and are present in many parts of the country. Their presence is not confined to the National Parks and so fencing of these properties would serve no practical purpose in terms of wild deer control or management.
There is an annual open season during which deer can be legally shot under licence. The open season for deer operates generally from 1 September to 28 February, depending on the species and gender of deer. My Department carries out localised annual deer counts on State lands such as the National Parks. Where appropriate, and depending on the annual count and instances of damage caused by deer to habitats, especially woodland, culls may be carried out to ensure that deer populations do not reach levels that would have negative ecological consequences.
Control of deer on private property is the responsibility of landowners who may apply to my Department for a permission under section 42 of the Wildlife Acts to cull deer where this is necessary outside the annual open seasons. These permissions offer a facility whereby a person can obtain a permit, on a case by case basis, to prevent serious damage caused by individual deer on specific lands. Permissions are only issued where there is evidence of such damage.
(10) National Parks and Wildlife Service 10 March
- Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht her views on the potential nature conservation implications for extensive farmland and upland Natura 2000 sites outlined in correspondence (details supplied) to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine and recently published by the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers’ Association, supported by a range of environmental organisations; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10459/15]
Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Heather Humphreys): I am aware of the correspondence referred to by the Deputy.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service of my Department is in ongoing dialogue with staff of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with respect to eligibility rules in upland and commonage lands, and, in particular, for lands that are part of the Natura 2000 network.
(11) Inland Waterways Development – 11 March 2015
- Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the extent to which discussions are taking place with persons and representatives of canal dwellers and recreational users of the canals with a view to reducing the costs highlighted in a previous draft report; if she expects to be in a position to meet the concerns of those involved; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10720/15]
Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Heather Humphreys): I refer the Deputy to my reply to Dáil Question No. 654 on 10 February 2015. I am aware that concerns have been raised regarding certain aspects of the proposed bye-laws that Waterways Ireland intends to make in order to enhance the management of the canals for all canal users.
Waterways Ireland undertook a public consultation process in relation to the proposed bye-laws in 2014. I am advised that the main stakeholders, including the Inland Waterway Association of Ireland, the Heritage Boat Association, the Royal Canal Amenity Group and the Irish Boat Rental Association, were contacted individually and invited to meet with Waterways Ireland prior to submitting their views. The current permit holders, including traditional canal users and canal dwellers on the Royal and Grand Canals and the Barrow Navigation, received individual written notices and were also given the opportunity to make their views known.
I understand that over 2,000 submissions were made in the course of the public consultation process. A summary of the consultation process and of the submissions received is available on the Waterways Ireland website at http://www.waterwaysireland.org/public-consultation .
The current position is that there is ongoing engagement between Waterways Ireland and my Department with a view to finalising the draft bye-laws which will be referred to me with recommendations for consideration and final decision. It is my intention to afford interested Deputies and Senators an opportunity to discuss the proposals withme prior to making a final decision on the draft bye-laws.
(12) An BordPleanála Appeals – 12 March 2015
- Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if discussions undertaken by An BordPleanála in assessing an appeal are minuted; and if such minutes are subject to Freedom Of Information access; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10867/15]
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Paudie Coffey): An BordPleanála is required by section 34(10) of the Planning and Development Act, 2000, as amended, to state the main reasons and considerations on which its decisions on planning appeals are based, including reasons for the imposition of any conditions. AnBordPleanála is required to also indicate the main reasons for not accepting any recommendation to grant/refuse permission by an inspector engaged by it to report on a planning case. An BordPleanála has advised my Department that the main reasons and considerations, referred to above, are stated on the face of the Board decision order in each case and also on the Board direction sheet which precedes the making and signing of the formal Board order and records the outcome of the Board meeting at which the relevant case was discussed/decided. These documents are publicly available for inspection on the website of An BordPleanála and at its offices within 3 days following the making of the Board decision.
No record of the discussions of An BordPleanála at a meeting at which cases are decided, other than the above Direction sheet and Decision Order, are made. AnBordPleanála does however produce a minuted record of the attendees and the cases discussed at each of its meetings and in relation to each case so discussed this minute also records the nature of the substantive decision made in relation to each case discussed at that meeting. This minute is made available by An BordPleanála on request.
Dail Debates & Questions forFebruary 2015
(1) Waterways Issues
(2) Commonage Division
(3) Heritage Sites
(4) Cycling Facilities
(5) Planning Issues
(6) Commonage Framework Plans
(7) *National Trails Office
(1) Waterways Issues – 10 February 2015
- Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the position on the development of the Ulster canal, in view of the fact that the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure in the North is awaiting approval from this State to proceed with works on the first phase of the project, which would restore the line of the canal as far as Castle Saunderson at a cost of approximately €2 to €2.5 million, with the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure in the North meeting 100% of the capital cost; and the reason there has been such a delay in granting the approval necessary for preliminary works to commence. [5515/15]
Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: My question is to find out the reason for the delay in progressing approval for the works on the first stage of the restoration programme for the Lough Erne to Clones stretch of the Ulster Canal, which is to be done at no cost to this State. I ask why we are now awaiting the grant for the first phase.
Deputy Heather Humphreys: At the outset, I should make it clear to the Deputy that, contrary to the suggestion in his question, the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure in Northern Ireland is neither awaiting approval for, nor proposing to meet, the capital cost of the first phase of the Ulster Canal project. The facts are that in July 2007 the North-South Ministerial Council agreed to a proposal with the then Irish Government to proceed with the restoration of the Ulster Canal between Clones and Upper Lough Erne and, in that context, the Government agreed to cover the full capital costs of the project, estimated at that time to be of the order of €35 million.
Planning approval for the project has been secured from the relevant authorities in the two jurisdictions – namely, Cavan County Council, what was Clones Town Council, Monaghan County Council and the Northern Ireland planning service. An updated business case was recently completed for my Department, and options for progressing the project within the current fiscal constraints are being explored. This includes the option of enabling access from Upper Lough Erne to the International Scout Centre at Castle Saunderson near Belturbet in County Cavan at an estimated cost of some €2.5 million, including VAT as appropriate. I hope to be in a position to bring the matter forward for further consideration by the Government in the coming weeks.
Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: I thank the Minister for the clarification and correction of what was stated in my question. However, that does not deal with why we are still awaiting physical progress on a decision that was taken in 2007 – that is, the proposal to reopen the Lough Erne to Clones section of what was a 73 km canal that went from Lough Erne to Lough Neagh. The project has potential in terms of the development of tourism and leisure activities, not just in Cavan and Monaghan but also in Fermanagh, Tyrone and Armagh, an area that has often been starved of funding and tourism. How quickly can we see progress on the section to Castle Saunderson, if it is to proceed? What about the overall proposal to deliver a restored canal to Clones?
Deputy Heather Humphreys: I want to assure the Deputy that I am very familiar with this project, especially given the fact that it is in my constituency. My predecessor, Deputy Deenihan, did a lot of work on progressing this important proposal and I consider this project to be a priority for me. Planning approvals have been received for the project from the relevant authorities, as I said, in both jurisdictions. An updated business case will be completed very shortly.
(2) Commonage Division – 10 February 2015
- Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to ensure that individual farmers in commonages do not put too much stock on the commonage to the detriment of other shareholders’ interests, in the absence of commonage framework plans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6037/15]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): GLAS ( the Green Low-Carbon Agri-environment Scheme) as proposed under the new Rural Development Programme ) specifically addresses the question of the sustainable management of commonages. A key component of managing a commonage is the implementation of an appropriate grazing regime. To this end a Management Plan for the commonage must be drawn up by an approved agricultural adviser and within that Plan those farmers participating in GLAS will be assigned individual minimum stocking densities. Within the Plan there will also be flexibility to exceed the individual minimums, but the maximum livestock density for the entire commonage may never be exceeded.
(3) Heritage Sites – 11 February 2015
- Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will provide, in tabular form, the number of visitors to all heritage sites in 2014; if he will provide percentage comparisons with the 2013 figures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6184/15]
- Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will provide, in tabular form, the income generated by visitors to each heritage site in 2014; if he will provide details of the staffing costs for each site; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6187/15]
Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Simon Harris): I propose to take Questions Nos. 57 and 58 together.
The information requested in relation to the visitor admissions for each site in OPW care where Guide services are provided is shown below. It should be noted that the 2014 figures have not been fully audited as yet and are therefore provisional.
|Site Name||Provisional 2014||2013||Difference||%|
|Battle of the Boyne/ Oldbridge Estate||71,137||60,796||10,341||17.01%|
|Castletown House & Parklands||285,410||244,416||40,994||16.77%|
|CorleaTrackway Visitor Centre||3,988||4,209||-221||-5.25%|
|Glebe House and Gallery||24,085||23,480||605||2.58%|
|Glendalough Visitor Centre||79,810||80,922||-1,112||-1.37%|
|Hill of Tara||11,892||9,600||2,292||23.88%|
|J F Kennedy Arboretum||92,236||95,356||-3,120||-3.27%|
|National Botanic Gardens||541,946||550,000||-8,054||-1.46%|
|Newmills Corn and Flax Mills||3,476||3,438||38||1.11%|
|Phoenix Park Visitor Centre||135,790||137,755||-1,965||-1.43%|
|Rock of Cashel||272,503||255,338||17,165||6.72%|
|St. Audoen’s Church||27,502||27,339||163||0.60%|
|St. Mary’s Church, Gowran||2,002||2,034||-32||-1.57%|
Fully audited Income and Cost figures for each individual site are not available as yet. However, the indicative comparative figures on a global basis are as follows:
|Income: 2014||7.94m (approx)||*Staff costs: 2014||8.97 m|
|Income: 2013||7.08m||*Staff costs: 2013||8.67 m|
* This figure represents Guide pay only.
(4) Cycling Facilities Provision – 11 February 2015
- Deputy Michael Conaghan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the amount of money his Department has allocated for the development of cycle ways in 2015; the amount of funding that will be allocated to the Dublin area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6191/15]
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): My Department awarded €6.3m under the National Cycle Network Funding Programme 2014-2016 for the delivery of 3 Greenway projects in Kerry, Galway and Waterford. €1,392,868 is currently profiled across the 3 projects for expenditure in 2015, though this figure may change during the year.
A further 11 cycleway/greenway projects shared in funding from the €200m Government Stimulus Package 2014 for infrastructural development, €10m of which was earmarked for the development of greenways. Projects funded under this package are due for completion in 2015. €1.3m was expended in 2014 with the remainder (€8.7m) to be drawn down in 2015.
Details of the above projects can be viewed on www.smartertravel.ie.
The National Transport Authority (NTA), in conjunction with Dublin City Council is responsible for the delivery of cycling infrastructure in the Greater Dublin Area. I have forwarded your request to the NTA for direct response to you regarding this element of your question. If you have not received a response within 10 working days please contact my private office.
(5) Planning Issues – 12 February 2015
- Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the status of the independent review of inquiries into planning irregularities in six local authorities; the action he will take; if inquiries will be extended to other local authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6487/15]
- Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to publish advice received from the Attorney General in relation to alleged planning irregularities in County Donegal; the action he will take on the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6488/15]
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Paudie Coffey): I propose to take Questions Nos. 244 and 245 together.
MacCabeDurney Barnes Consultants were appointed in February 2014 to carry out an independent planning review on the performance of planning functions in six selected planning authorities (Carlow, Cork, Galway and Meath County Councils and Cork and Dublin City Councils) in accordance with section 255 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended. I expect to receive the final report from the consultants shortly and I subsequently intend to publish it having considered its contents.
I have no plans to extend this targeted planning review to other planning authorities. As a matter of practice, in the interests of ensuring maximum transparency and integrity for the planning system and the achievement of proper planning and sustainable development generally , I continue to keep under review measures to improve the consistency of approach in the implementation of planning legislation and policy across all planning authorities in order that the delivery of planning services are continually improved, in the interests of public confidence in the planning system and that it stands up to public scrutiny at every stage from policy formulation to decision making.
My Department is also considering proposals in respect of the next steps to be taken in respect of Donegal County Council planning matters, taking account of advice from the Office of the Attorney General. I expect a decision will be made shortly on the course to be pursued in this case.
(6) Commonage Framework Plans – 17 February 2015
- Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to outline his views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding commonage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6822/15]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): Under the proposals for Commonages in the new GLAS Scheme, the shareholders themselves will draw up a new Commonage Plan, guided by the agricultural adviser they have chosen for their commonage. In these new Plans, a minimum and maximum stocking – level will be assigned to each participating shareholder and each shareholder will be required to comply on an individual basis with his or her prescribed stock numbers. Where a shareholder does not maintain his or her own stocking level on the commonage a sanction will apply to the individual shareholder in question, but to no other member of the Commonage group in question.
Where the Commonage Management Plan requires an action to be addressed by all shareholders in GLAS and this is not complied with, any resulting sanction must be applied to all participants.
(7) National Trails Office – 17 Feb 2015
- Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the operation of the walks scheme administered by his Department with the assistance of the National Trails Office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7037/15]
- Deputy Michael Creed asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the way individual land owners along a marked walk approved by the National Trails Office but currently inadvertently excluded from the walks scheme can apply for inclusion in the scheme and payment for participation in same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7038/15]
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Ann Phelan): I propose to take Questions Nos. 481 and 482 together.
There are now 39 trails covered by the Walks Scheme. However, due to budgetary constraints, it has not been possible to develop new walks under the existing Walks Scheme or bring developed trails onto the Walks Scheme since December 2010.
In 2014 annual payments to participants who maintained sections of trails that traversed their lands were in the region of €1.8m. The number of participants on the scheme currently stands at 1,896. It is intended that any additional efficiencies and savings that can be generated in the scheme will be put towards priority re-routes and improvements on the existing trails comprehended by the scheme.
I appreciate there were a number of marked walks which are approved by the National Trails Office but are not covered by the Walks Scheme. Only those trails where contracts had been signed and the Scheme was operational were in a position to progress onto the Walks Scheme up to the end of 2010.
*Editors Note: What a mess this voluntary permissive approach to access to the countryside has proven to be.
Dail Debates & Questions January 2015
(1) 14 January 2015 – Greenways & CPO’s -Tourism Project Funding
- Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will fund long distance greenways that are fenced and have a hard surface on them, where access is on a permissive basis or if it will be a condition of funding that the developers of such greenways have permanent access to the land in question in view of the considerable investment involved and in view of the uncertainty created by permissive access only; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1566/15]
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): My Department will consider all proposals submitted by local authorities under whichever funding programme is in place at the time. The nature of the surfacing provided on individual greenways would depend on the route to be traversed and it would not be unusual for portions of a single greenway to have different surfaces.
There is no one size fits all for greenways, each greenway will be assessed on its individual merits.
The permissive access model is a worthy mechanism for certain cycling and walking projects, particularly on a local level. It is a low cost community based model that provides access to the natural environment without interfering with the property rights of the landowners concerned.
In terms of the best land access models for greenway delivery, the use of publicly owned land is advantageous from the perspective of reducing costs. Negotiated permissive access, from the perspective of cost and public ownership, continues to have value but, for projects of national scale, consideration must be given to land purchase by agreement or if necessary by CPO. The process of obtaining permissive access is resource intensive especially where agreement would need to be secured with hundreds or more landowners. Greater investment is now being provided for greenways and it would be precarious to rely on permissive access where the associated agreements may be withdrawn at any time without recourse to the State. Of course, as already stated, it will be a matter for all developers of cycling infrastructure to consider access to land on a case by case basis and to take a multi-criteria approach in the route selection process. The key consideration should always be to select an approach that will maximise the future use of the amenity concerned. There are no plans within my Department to make future funding awards for greenways conditional on an authority having permanent access to those sections of the lands through which a greenway traverses.
In the context of developing major cycling infrastructure projects that traverse long sections of privately owned land, such as the Dublin – Galway greenway I fully support the need to consider negotiated financial agreements or, if required, CPO. However, I certainly recommend that all other options are considered before land purchase is decided upon.
(2) 15 January 2015 – Greenway Development – County Kerry
- Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on establishing a funding scheme for local authorities planning to carry out feasibility studies on possible new greenway or cycle and walkway routes, such as the possibility of extending the planned Glenbeigh to Renard Greenway from Glenbeigh to Killorglin and-or Farranfore, Kerry Airport and Fossa; his further views that funding feasibility studies would be of great assistance to the planning of future greenways; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1958/15]
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): The establishment of a funding scheme under which local authorities can apply to undertake feasibility studies for possible new greenways-cycle routes is a very worthwhile proposal.
My Department established such a funding scheme in 2013 in advance of the 2014-2016 National Cycle Network Funding (NCN) call. The purpose of this scheme was to make available some ‘seed finance’ to a small number of authorities to undertake initial project planning, design or necessary studies for which the authority would not otherwise have had the financial resources and which would enable the authority to be well placed to submit a developed proposal under the upcoming funding call.
28 authorities responded to my Department’s invitation to submit an expression of interest under this scheme submitting a total of 33 proposals. 12 proposals were selected and shared in funding of €420,000. Kerry County Council were awarded €50,000 to undertake an environmental and geotechnical assessment for the Glenbeigh to Reenard Trail which subsequently received funding under the NCN 2014-2016 and Stimulus funding programmes.
(3) 20 Jan 2015 – Sport and Recreational Development – West Cork
Deputy Jim Daly: Ar an gcéad dul síos, ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil as an deis a labhairt ar an ábhar seo sa Teach anocht. I thank the Minister coming in to take the matter. It moves seamlessly on from the previous discussion about airports moving into this area of tourism.
My overall objective and a dream I would like to realise, which I share with many of my constituents and many people across west Cork, is to be able to get off the aeroplane in Cork Airport and walk or cycle down into west Cork, and continue the journey through west Cork either on foot or by bike. While it sounds a bit romantic and a bit of a dream, there is a lot of work done to date on realising that dream. There is an incredible community spirit locally in west Cork and we have a long history of tourism. It is a discussion I have had on numerous occasions with the present Minister, Deputy Donohoe, and with his predecessor Deputy Varadkar, as well as the Minister of State, Deputy Ring. I have tried to realise that dream of developing walkways, what are known as greenways – blueways, of course, are the same thing through water – across west Cork in conjunction with the local people and Cork County Council and its officials. I had a meeting recently with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, with a view to ensuring that funding is made available to Deputy Donohoe’s department for this specific issue.
I held a public meeting in west Cork last Monday night week in the Emmet Hotel in Clonakilty. I did not do much advertising for it, it was just carried in the local newspaper a couple of weeks ahead of the date. The crowd was massive, but what was far more impressive was the enthusiasm of the people. It was infectious. The amount of work people had done was striking, like the west Cork cycling group, which has already designated a 200 km cycle around west Cork for which they are developing an app that can be downloaded to phones. Sean Collins of that club spoke in great detail about developing the app and making it available. Very little money would be needed to signpost that route. They also have a smaller route of about 26 km ready to go.
The Acting Chairman would be no stranger to west Cork himself, of course, and would be familiar with the very natural and existing beauty. I know the Minister, Deputy Donohoe has holidayed there on many occasions and has come back to me with glowing reports. That is no surprise to me. We have a natural infrastructure there, but we also had an infrastructure at one time that was taken from us. Unfortunately there is nothing that can be done about that now. That is the railway line, of course, which also comes under the Minister’s Department. The railway line was closed long before Deputy Donohoe’s time, when the good people of west Cork were denied their railway. The line is still there, however, and Cork County Council has done a feasibility study and identified a 26 km walk all the way down it to Courtmacsherry. We hope to develop that as a greenway so people can walk, cycle, run or whatever takes their fancy on that route.
We also want to develop numerous other walkways and trails and it would remiss of me not to acknowledge the serious amount of work done by many groups in west Cork already. Drimoleague would be one, where David Ross and his people have developed a number of trails and walkways. There is beautiful scenery and the area is made for that kind of exercise.
In addition to talking about tourism and bringing tourists into west Cork to avail of these facilities, there is huge demand from the domestic market, from the local residents who want to get out and exercise. I noted driving into Dublin today that a massive number of people were out walking and running even though the weather was not that conducive to it. People are very conscious of their health and they want to get out, get active and get exercise. It is a great way to spend time with our children. The roads have gotten so much busier now, so people want to do this exercise off-road.
I am very passionate about this, and I believe money is starting to come into the Exchequer. We have to reinvest back into our futures. This ticks so many boxes on so many different levels – physical health and well-being, mental health and well-being, as well as the tourism boxes. There is a huge appetite from the local population for it as evidenced at the meeting.
Deputy Paschal Donohoe: I thank the Deputy for raising this matter. I am not at all surprised to hear of the interest within the Clonakilty community and within Deputy Daly’s constituency, because the roll-out of these greenways across the country has been hugely successful. I can see the demand for the roll-out of this kind of infrastructure really beginning to steadily build. Because of that there is a need for us to evaluate how we are going to do that, what money will be available and how they can be delivered in the best way. I am going to allude to some of the thinking on those areas in response to the Deputy’s contribution.
As the Deputy is aware and has already acknowledged, last year my Department awarded €6.3 million under the National Cycle Network funding programme 2014-2016 to three local authorities for the delivery of greenways following a competitive process. A further 11 cycle-greenway proposals have been submitted by local authorities to share in the €200 million Government stimulus package for infrastructural development. Of that, €10 million was earmarked for the delivery of greenways. Seed funding was also provided to a number of local authorities in 2013 to progress planning and research for greenways. This funding amounted to €420,000.
At the moment, my Department has no plans to put in place a dedicated funding stream to provide funding to community groups to develop and deliver proposals such as those outlined by the Deputy as funding is fully allocated at the moment until 2016. As it stands I feel that the Leader programme serves this purpose although I am aware there are many demands being made on limited resources. I would recommend that local authorities and community groups continue working within their own resources where possible to progress plans for suitable projects so that when funding does become available they are in a position to apply for that funding. We might come back to that in a moment. It should be noted that the funding under the stimulus package last year was made to projects that were already on file with my Department following on from the awards under the National Cycle Network funding programme.
Offering our visitors an innovative tourism product has been key to growth in visitor numbers in recent years. The Government’s commitment to sustainable transport and encouraging the development of world-class cycling and walking trails is an added incentive to visit Ireland. We must remain aware of the need to build greenways that appeal to local users, particularly where these greenways can help provide an alternative route to schools and work for children and families. The Deputy referred to that in his own contribution when he said that he noticed, when travelling to the Dáil, how many people were out and about on their bikes and on the footpaths despite the inclement weather, coming into their workplaces or going to school.
I understand that the National Trails Office in conjunction with stakeholders is working on a revised strategy for Irish trails that will be submitted to Government for approval later this year. This strategy, along with the Department of the Environment and Local Government’s national countryside recreational strategy, which is also under review, will guide the Government’s thinking on expanding the number of greenways, blueways and outdoor trails in the coming years.
It is important that, in preparing business cases and plans for greenways, communities and local authorities always keep in mind the end users. There is no point in seeking to put significant time, effort and money into projects that will not be used. The Field of Dreams approach – where “if you build it they will come” – will not necessarily work for greenways. People need to have access to them and the start and finish points must be carefully thought through.
I will refer back to some comments the Deputy made in my concluding comments.
Deputy Jim Daly: I thank the Minister for his response. In essence we are all on the one hymn sheet here. We all know it is a great idea and the merits of it. I will not labour those points. Having spoken with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, I am confident that new funding will be available and new stimulus funding will be announced this year, and I think Deputy Donohoe’s Department will be in a better place. I am confident, anyway; I hope I am not revealing any trade secrets there, but the Minister, Deputy Howlin, was certainly encouraging in his comments on that matter.
I hope the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport will be particularly proactive in this regard because it ticks two relevant boxes, that is, sustainable transport as well as the tourism element. Of course the domestic element is tied in with that as well.
I am delighted with the success of the greenway in Mayo. It looks to be a great success. The project got significant funding. However, in west Cork we do not have a Taoiseach or Minister of State with responsibility for tourism. I am keen to see our share of the spoils. Are we to get our share of the spoils? I hope the Minister will support me in ensuring that the good work done at grassroots level by community activists is brought to fruition. This work was evident at the meeting. Dozens of people contacted me by e-mail and so on afterwards. It is also evident on the part of Cork County Council, which has done considerable work on feasibility studies and identifying routes.
The old railway line in west Cork is an ideal route to be developed. However, we need funding from central government. I hope the Minister will take every opportunity to support us in this regard and to be cognisant of it from the start of the year. I hope we will be back in the House again with more positive news and announcements on this front during the year.
Deputy Paschal Donohoe: I assure the Deputy that I fully recognise the importance of the development of greenways and blue-ways throughout our island for the two reasons to which he referred. I wish to emphasise the sustainable transport aspect. In my visits to various points throughout the country I have been struck by the importance which local authorities attach to having their own sustainable transport strategies. In county after county I have met local representatives, directors of services or local authority chief executives. All point to the role of sustainable transport strategies in improving the lives of people in the areas they represent as well as helping its economic development.
I am very much aware of how greenways have already contributed to economic development and in particular the development of our tourism offering for domestic as well as international tourists. I have met experts in this area and they have made two points to me. First, the need for us to have more projects, in particular greenways of a certain calibre, throughout the country. Second, we need greenways of a particular length. This is because certain tourists are willing to travel to our country and spend money but they want to be able to use a greenway that will take many days of cycling to complete. This would allow them to spend time traversing the country and many different counties as opposed to a single or particular county. This is one of the reasons I am very supportive of the work that is under way – we have funding against it – for the Dublin to Galway greenway.
I hear clearly where Deputy Daly is coming from. He is looking for more of these facilities to be made available throughout the country, particularly in his county. Unfortunately, I am not in a position to confirm to Deputy Daly that the money is available now. However, we must continue planing in order that if and when funding becomes available in future we have projects that are ready to go. I assure Deputy Daly that I will be raising the need for this kind of planning and funding in these areas within Government.
(4) 27 January 2015 Compulsory Purchase Orders
- Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the legislation under which the National Roads Authority proposes to compulsory purchase order lands for the Dublin to Galway Greenway, as that land can only be purchased under CPO for critical infrastructure projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3404/15]
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): I understand that both the National Roads Authority and Westmeath County Council both received similar legal advice that the appropriate legislation to compulsorily purchase land required for the purpose of the Dublin to Galway Greenway from Athlone to Galway is section 213 of the Planning and Development Act, 2000. This section makes no reference to critical infrastructure but does to the Local Authority having the power “for the purposes of performing any of its functions”.
What is critical is the ability of the Government to protect the significant expenditure that will be incurred for the provision of this wonderful amenity between Dublin and Galway and the rights of cyclist and pedestrians to have permanent access to it for generations to come.
(5) 27 January 2014 – Cycling Facilities Provision
- Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to expand bicycle lanes here; the projects ongoing or planned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3490/15]
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): All funding available to my Department for the development of the National Cycle Network is now fully committed up to the end of 2016.
Under the National Cycle Network Funding Programme 2014-2016 three projects shared in €6.3m. for the delivery of three greenways in Kerry, Galway and Waterford. A further 11 greenway/cycleway projects were awarded funding under the €200m Government Stimulus Package for infrastructural development, €10m of which was earmarked for the development of greenways. Details of the projects funded are contained in the tables under.
It is likely, given the popularity and success of greenways already delivered, that funding may become available from other sources over the coming years. The EU Structural Funds Programme 2014-2020 is currently being finalised and there may be significant opportunities for cycle infrastructure development under Interreg and the Rural Development Programme. I understand that a number of local authorities are positioning themselves to benefit from such opportunities
The delivery of a world class National Cycle Network for Ireland continues to be a priority for my Department.
National Cycle Network Funding Programme 2014-2016
|Kerry||Glenbeigh-Reenard Trail (Phase 2 and Phase 3)||26||3,458,281|
|Galway||Galway to Moycullen Greenway||12.4||2,000,000|
|Waterford||Clonea to Durrow Greenway (Phase 1)||7.2||897,739|
Stimulus Funding 2014
|Clare||West Clare Greenway -Phase 1 – Ennis to Balllymacquiggan||5||400,000|
|Kerry||Cahersiveen to Reenard Point (Phase 1 Fertha Greenway)||5.75||450,000|
|Kerry||Trakee Fenit Trail – Phase 1 Rock Street to Casement Station||0.42||345,000|
|Kildare||Arthur’s Way Greenway||25||311,000|
|Limerick||Patrickswell to Limerick City cycleway||4.14||420,000|
|Mayo||Monasteries of the Moy – part funding for project||14||250,000|
|Roscommon||Boyle to Lough Key Forest Park||24||400,000|
|Tipperary||Clonmel to Carrick-on-Suir Greenway||20||1,900,000|
|Waterford||Kilmeaden to Bilberry Greenway||9.6||1,100,000|
|Westmeath||Athlone to Mullingar Greenway||40||4,000,000|
|Westmeath||Coolnahay to the County Boundary||14.4||700,000|
Dail Debates & Questions December 2014
(1) National Countryside Recreation Strategy
(2) Planning Issues – New Planning Bill 2014
(3) National Parks Projects – Liffey Valley
(4) Tourism Policy Greeways& CPO’s
(5) Planning Issues – Heather Cottage?
(6) CAP Reform and Farm Income for 2013
(1) National Countryside Recreation Strategy – 2nd December
- Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to offer incentives and compensation to farmers for any loss or inconvenience caused by allowing greenways or walkways through their lands, in view of the huge societal and economic potential that such infrastructure may bring; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45868/14]
Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Alan Kelly): The economic and social benefits derived from landowners allowing greenways or walkways through their lands is fully recognised by my Department, as is the possibility of inconvenience or loss caused to these landowners by allowing such projects to proceed. Permissive access, which does not attract any incentive or compensation, will continue to be a key tool in the delivery of these types of recreational infrastructure going forward. My Department has responsibility for the implementation of the National Countryside Recreation Strategy (NCRS).
The Strategic Objectives set out in the Strategy are:
1. To achieve sustainable and responsible recreation in the countryside.
2. To promote caring recreational use of the countryside.
3. To develop a national framework that promotes the rights and responsibilities of both owners and users.
4. To develop a suitable structure to deliver a national countryside recreation service in a strategic and co-ordinated way.
5. To secure a package of funding mechanisms to deliver on the objectives of the strategy.
The on-going development of the activity tourism sector is of strategic importance for Ireland given the potential to leverage job creation and improve exchequer revenue from both foreign and domestic tourism.
The Walks Scheme which was introduced in 2008 is currently in place on 39 trails nationally, with 1,895 landholder participants. These participants receive modest payments for the development, enhancement and maintenance of those sections of trail that traverse their lands. In 2014 payments to landowners amounted to €1.8m. Due to budgetary constraints this scheme is currently closed to new participants; however, in some cases, a number of new participants have been brought on to the scheme following the renewal of contracts. In 2014, over 90 new participants joined the scheme.
The permissive access model currently used as part of the implementation of the National Countryside Recreation Strategy for the development of greenways and walkways in Ireland has led to the successful delivery of close on 800 walking, cycling, and equestrian trails which are all listed on the Irish Trails Register.
My Department continues to be a main funder of the Leave No Trace initiative which, through partnerships and education, promotes responsible recreational use in the outdoors, thus minimising the inconvenience caused to landholders and farm animals alike.
(2)Planning Issues – 2ndDecember 2014
- Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government when a planning regulator, as recommended by the Mahon tribunal will be appointed. [45999/14]
Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Alan Kelly): I intend to shortly publish a General Scheme of the Planning and Development (No. 2) Bill 2014 which will provide for, inter alia , the establishment of the Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR) in response to the planning recommendations of the Final Report of the Mahon Tribunal. The primary function of the OPR, which will be established as an independent body, will be to carry out independent appraisal of regional and local level statutory plans prepared and adopted under the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, namely, development plans, local area plans, regional spatial and economic strategies etc. The OPR will also have investigative powers to examine, inter alia, possible systemic failings in the planning system, again taking account of the recommendation of the Mahon Tribunal in this regard. The OPR will also be mandated to carry out the research, training and education roles identified by the Mahon Tribunal.
(3)National Parks Projects – 2ndDecember 2014
- Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the steps taken by her Department towards the creation of a Liffey Valley national park in County Dublin; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [46167/14]
Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Heather Humphreys): I understand that in 2006 a strategy document entitled ‘Towards a Liffey Valley Park’ was developed under the direction of a steering group, which included the Office of Public Works, Dublin City Council, Fingal County Council, Kildare County Council and South Dublin County Council. The strategy document set out recommendations for the creation of a process towards the establishment of a park with a management framework for the Liffey Valley area. The implementation of those recommendations, or similar steps, is a matter for the local authorities concerned. The strategy document did not recommend the designation of Liffey Valley as a National Park and the position in that regard remains unchanged.
(4)Tourism PolicyGreeways& CPO’s – 4th December 2014
- Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will consider ways to offer incentives and compensation to farmers for any loss or inconvenience caused by allowing greenways or walkways through their lands, in view of the huge societal and economic potential that such infrastructure may bring; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46300/14]
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): The economic and social benefits to local communities from the delivery of greenways in their locality is fully recognised by my Department. In terms of the best land access models for greenway delivery, the use of publicly owned land is advantageous from the perspective of reducing costs. Negotiated permissive access, from the perspective of cost and public ownership, continues to have value but, for projects of national scale, consideration must be given to land purchase by agreement or if necessary by CPO. The process of obtaining permissive access is resource intensive and I would have my doubts that such a process could be deployed on projects of national scale where agreement would need to be secured with hundreds or more landowners. Greater investment is now being provided for greenways and it would be precarious to rely on permissive access where the associated agreements may be withdrawn at any time without recourse to the State. Of course, as already stated, it will be a matter for all developers of cycling infrastructure to consider access to land on a case by case basis and to take a multi-criteria approach in the route selection process.
In the context of developing major cycling infrastructure projects that traverse long sections of privately owned land, I fully support the need to consider negotiated financial agreements or, if required, CPO. However, I certainly recommend that all other options are considered before land purchase is decided upon.
The key consideration should always be to select an approach that will maximise the future use of the amenity concerned.
(5)Planning Issues – Heather Cottage? – 11th Dec 2014
- Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to legal proceedings (details supplied) regarding alleged infringements of planning laws concerning a public right of way in north County Dublin; if his Department is monitoring the situation with regard to other alleged infringements of planning laws, particularly of a SAAO which relates to the lands in question; and if he will report on whether his Department is liaising with the chief executive of Fingal County Council regarding the protection of this SAAO. [47561/14]
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Paudie Coffey): My Department is seeking information on this matter and I will write to the Deputy shortly.
(6)Common Agricultural Policy Reform – 18 Dec 2014
Direct Payments 2013 = 77% Farm Family Income and even more for drystock farms. Farm Assist 2013 €91m to 9,900 farmers.
- Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which he has examined the effect of common agricultural policy reform throughout the agricultural sector with particular reference to the degree to which family farm enterprises continue to be protected as a result; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49424/14]
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Simon Coveney): I am satisfied that farm families in Ireland will benefit from the reformed CAP. Data from Teagasc’s National Farm Survey shows that direct payments accounted for 77% of family farm income on average in 2013, and are even more significant as a source of income for drystock farms, particularly those in disadvantaged areas. The environmental focus of supports under CAP reform, with a ‘greening’ payment under Pillar I and funding for the new GLAS scheme under Pillar II, will enhance the sustainability of Irish farms. The enhanced support for young farmers under both Pillars, in conjunction with the Budget changes recently introduced following from the Agri Taxation review, should encourage greater land mobility and earlier transfer to young trained farmers.