The scenic village of Murrisk which is embroiled in controversy over a proposed new greenway route from Belclare. PHOTO: FáILTE IRELAND

West Mayo residents 'kept in dark' over greenway route selection

A GROUP in west Mayo opposed to the proposed route of a new greenway between Belclare and Murrisk have appealed to Mayo County Council over its decision to continue to withhold the multi-criteria assessment supporting the route selection.

The group was refused the information following a Freedom of Information request.

Patrick Slevin, a group member, outlined this document is the basis on which TII, the council and Barry Transportation have recommended option 2 and shelved the option to upgrade the cycle and walkway along the R335.

"All the affected landowners, and many people besides, would like to know why? As we are in a consultation, it would be helpful if we could see, and comment, on the rationale behind this decision.

"This would save a lot of time, effort and money, not to mention anguish, correcting this. Currently, we are prevented from doing so by being kept in the dark as to why, and on what grounds, the emerging preferred route was selected, and the improvement of the main road discarded.

"To date, no written rationale for the emerging preferred route has been made public.

"Some inconsistent statements were made on the day of the announcement (February 2) that the emerging preferred route was less expensive, half the price, according to a representative from the council, 20% cheaper according to a representative of Barry Transportation.

"The assertion that by cutting a five-metre-wide path through fields, marshlands and forests is somehow less environmentally destructive than improving an existing road borders on the incredulity.

"Despite no written rationale having been made public, our homes have been blighted these last seven months.

"The National Roads Office advises that this is a working document and subject to amendment.

"How are we supposed to engage constructively in the consultation without being informed of the rationale underpinning the decision that’s clearly been made?

"Or is the consultation process simply an exercise in collecting all the reasons against the emerging preferred route?

"Based on the experience to date we are left with the unavoidable conclusion that the project is not in keeping with government policy or the wishes of the people in the locality.

"The planned greenway is not green, it will not result in people cycling to work, or to school, when it goes 70 metres above sea level.

"Not only impractical, the emerging preferred route goes through native woodlands and wetland habitats, home to endangered species that are protected by national and European law.

"To call it a greenway is to greenwash what is actually a blackway, a proposal to tarmac a pristine enclave, and further fragment an already embattled environment.

"That we are not permitted to read the rationale behind the decision to pursue such a plan until after we are able to influence it is a testament to how consultative the consultation is; not at all.

"Our local council and the seemingly unaccountable quango TII demonstrate a complete disregard for the people, the countryside and the democratic process by persisting in their support for option two.

"We were assured by at the end of last year that the process would be transparent, clearly it is not."