Q1: Who is running the project?
A1: Leitrim County Council, in partnership with Sligo County Council, Cavan County Council and Fermanagh & Omagh District Council, under the auspices of Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) and Department for Infrastructure (DfI) are developing the Sligo, Leitrim, Northern Counties Railway (SLNCR) Greenway. Arup have been appointed by Leitrim County Council to provide multi-disciplinary engineering and other specialist consultancy services.
Q2: What is a Greenway?
A2: TII defines a Greenway as “…a cycleway that caters for people walking, wheeling and cycling in a mainly recreational environment.” Where a cycleway is “…an offline public road reserved for the exclusive use of people cycling or people walking, wheeling, and cycling. All mechanically propelled vehicles, other than mechanically propelled wheelchairs and electric bikes, are prohibited from entering except for the purpose of maintenance and access.”
Q3: The origins of the project name.
A3: The Sligo, Leitrim, Northern Counties Railway (SLNCR) Greenway as a concept has been around for a number of years and is recognised locally. That said, Leitrim County Council have held initial discussions with Fáilte Ireland around branding and a name change is under consideration.
Q4: Why are we not just following the line of the historic railway?
A4: The latest design guidance and policy encourages the use of “state-owned land”, and “disused railway infrastructure” is quoted as an example. While the preferred option may end up on the line of the historic railway there are sections of the historic railway which are no longer available for use as a Greenway (eg. the N16 at Blacklion / A4 at Belcoo). We are required to formally appraise all viable alternatives as part of the Environmental Impact Assessment to ensure that the advantages and disadvantages of the various options are considered, and the emerging preferred option represents the best solution.
Q5: How will the route of the Greenway be decided?
A5: The Project will be developed in line with TII Project Management Guidelines Phases 1-5 and the Code of Best Practice for National and Regional Greenways (CBPN&RG). “The emerging preferred route corridor will be identified based on the respective advantages and disadvantages of the various options, as well as consideration of the various route corridor options in relation to the scheme objectives and Five S criteria (Scenic, Sustainable, Strategic, Segregated and lots to See and do).” [CBPN&RG]
Phase 1 Concept and Feasibility will identify an appropriate Study Area and a long list of route options. During Phase 1 the long list of options are examined in terms of their feasibility, conceptually and practically, to achieve the Project objectives as part of the Preliminary Options Assessment and some may be ruled out.
During Phase 2 Options Selection viable options will be evaluated by undertaking an appraisal of the quantifiable and non-quantifiable impacts. This appraisal will be in accordance with Project Appraisal Guidelines Unit: 13.0 Appraisal of Active Modes under the headings of Economy, Safety, Environmental Appraisal, Accessibility & Social Inclusion, Integration and Physical Activity.
Following this appraisal, a preferred option will be identified.
Q6: When will the landowners directly affected by the Preferred Option be contacted?
A6: Every landowner directly affected by the Preferred Option will be contacted as part of the third Public Consultation event, which is planned for Q4 of 2023.
Q7: When is the earliest timeframe that the project could be built? / When will the project be submitted for planning permission and get planning consent?
A7: The project is currently programmed to submit simultaneous planning applications in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland in 2025. Once these planning applications are submitted, the planning authorities will dictate the project timeline and their decision date. Subject to planning approval and funding for the project to proceed it will subsequently take time to complete the detailed design and appoint a contractor. The duration for construction is currently unknown as the extents of the project are still unknown at this Phase. Therefore, the only certainty on timeframe at present is that it is expected that the submission of the planning applications will occur in 2025.
Q8: Why is the project needed?
A8: The need for the SLNCR Greenway is underpinned by the necessity to provide facilities which enable physical activity in a safe environment for all, by the need to connect rural communities using sustainable modes for short trips and strengthen rural economies and communities, whilst enhancing amenity and heritage.
Q9: Why is the project starting again from a blank canvas? What has happened to the previous project?
A9: The previous project was developed and assessed in four separate sections back in 2013 and/or 2016. A lot may have changed in those years both in terms of constraints and legislation. TII have only recently published new standards and guidelines for Greenways, and it is important to start from a blank canvas to fully understand what the issues are and what is the most optimal solution.
Q10: Will my house be given the same level of importance as other constraints when selecting the preferred option?
A10: Your house is an important constraint and will be considered among all the constraints.
Q11: How do I find out about compensation?
A11a Republic of Ireland: The Code of Best Practice for National and Regional Greenways sets out guidance around compensation, payments, etc. for landowners affected by a greenway project. The code is available from the tii.ie and gov.ie websites.
A11b Northern Ireland: At present access to privately owned lands and land purchases would be by agreement only. Initial discussions around compensation for cross border Greenway projects have been held at Department level. Any agreed approach will need to be backed by legislative measures by the Northern Ireland Executive. Updates on this topic will be communicated via the “FAQs” section of the project website and future consultation events.
Q12: How will potential impacts on ecology and protected sites be managed?
A12: The design team are at the very early stages in the development of a greenway in this area. The protection of the natural environment is one of the key considerations that informs the design process and even at this early stage, the various designated sites along the routes have been identified as key ecological receptors. In addition, the potential (and known) presence of several protected species has been identified in the area and these have also been identified as potential key ecological receptors. As the design and route selection process continues, a series or robust and comprehensive ecological surveys will be carried out in line with the most relevant policies and guidelines and will allow a full description and evaluation of the ecological baseline along the route of the greenway. This will inform the final selected route and the design of the greenway itself. The development will be designed to avoid ecological impacts wherever possible and to minimise and mitigate any unavoidable impacts. It will be the subject of Appropriate Assessment (or Screening) and will not proceed if the potential for adverse effects on the Conservation Objectives of any European Site (SAC or SPA) cannot be excluded in the absence of scientific doubt. Similarly, the greenway will not proceed if significant impacts on key ecological receptors cannot be avoided. However, through careful design and route selection processes, we are confident that a Greenway can be designed within the Study Area without resulting in any adverse effects on European Sites and/or significant impacts on Key Ecological Receptors.
Once the preferred option has been identified detailed ecological surveys will be undertaken and appropriate mitigation measures will be put in place.
If required an assessment of the potential for the proposed greenway to adversely affect the integrity of the SACs and potentially Special Protection Areas (SPAs) will be undertaken and presented in a Natura Impact Statement along with any mitigation that is prescribed to avoid any such effects. We note that it is reasonable and permissible to carry out development within an SAC provided that it can be clearly demonstrated that the development will not result in adverse effects on it. Should the preferred option travels through an SAC we will be required to demonstrate that any proposed development will not result in adverse effects on the SAC and will not prevent the individual Conservation Objectives for the site from achieving or maintaining favourable conservation status. If this cannot be demonstrated then this route would not be consider viable
Q13: Can a member of the project team be contacted by the public or their representative to ascertain if a proposed planning application will be affected by the project?
A13: Yes, our project liaison officers will be available for the full duration of the project to answer any questions the public and interested parties may have in relation to the project. The project team will be able to advise of any potential conflicts between a proposed planning application and this project.
Q14: Who finally decides to give planning or not?
A14: The decision to give planning will be made by the relevant authority which will be An Bord Pleanála in the Republic of Ireland and Fermanagh and Omagh District Council in Northern Ireland.
Q15: How will biosecurity and/or disease control be managed?
A15: The councils will comply with all regulations relating to biosecurity and / or disease control as direct by the relevant government department, be it the Department of Agriculture in the Republic of Ireland and/or the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland.
Q16: Will horses be allowed on a greenway?
A16: No, horses will be prohibited. Use of the Greenway will be restricted to people walking, wheeling, and cycling.
Q17: My property is remote. How will my security concerns be addressed?
A17: Concerns will be discussed with individual landowners once the emerging preferred route has been identified. Where practical, the Greenway will be routed to stay away from houses and/or farm buildings. Where necessary, screening such as hedges, fences or other suitable screening will be used to provide adequate privacy. Boundary treatment will be discussed and agreed with the landowner / farmer during the landowner consultation process in Phase 3 (2024).
The Council will work closely with key stakeholders, like An Garda Síochána & the PSNI, and apply experience gained on other Greenway projects. Experience to date from other greenways around the country is that anti-social instances are infrequent, and that Greenways tend to be managed by passive surveillance of the users.
Q18: Who will make the decision on the Preferred Option?
A18: Leitrim County Council, in partnership with Sligo County Council, Cavan County Council and Fermanagh & Omagh District Council, under the auspices of Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) and Department for Infrastructure (DfI) are developing the Sligo, Leitrim, Northern Counties Railway (SLNCR) Greenway. Arup will assess all of the constraints, issues identified, and feedback received from the public consultation, and then the design team, which includes a team of environmental specialists, make a recommendation on the Preferred Option to the Steering Committee.
Q19: What is the width of the Study Area?
A19: The width of the Study Area varies and may increase following comments received during the first Public Consultation – Concept and Feasibility. At its narrowest the Study Area is ≥3km. In developing the Study Area a radius of 1.5km was set around the population centres of Carraroe, Collooney, Ballygawley, Ballintogher, Dromahair, Manorhamilton, Glenfarne, Blacklion, Belcoo, Letterbreen and Enniskillen. 1.5km was selected on the basis that “average urban commuter cycling speeds are up to 20 km/h” which translates to a ≤ 10-minute cycle to and from the greenway to the centre of each town / village. A similar principle was then applied to the areas in between these population centres with the Study Area then expanded to capture nearby opportunities and / or constraints.
Q20: What will be the width of the preferred option corridor?
A20: The corridor for the Preferred Option has yet to be defined. The width selected will need to provide flexibility and sufficient scope to vary the exact route of the proposed greenway to avoid constraints, allow for construction and operation of the greenway, and accommodate necessary elements such as earthworks, drainage / environmental features, boundary treatment, accommodation works and public facilities such as bins, toilet facilities, rest / picnic areas, fishing platforms, slipways, trailheads, parking areas, etc.
Q21: What will be the width of the finished Greenway?
A21: As the route design has not begun the width of the finished greenway is not yet known. As this will most likely be a Shared Use (2-way) facility the absolute minimum width of the finished greenway is likely to be of the order of 5-7m, excluding necessary elements such as earthworks, drainage / environmental features, boundary treatment, accommodation works and public facilities such as bins, toilet facilities, rest / picnic areas, fishing platforms, slipways, trailheads, parking areas, etc.
Q22: Where is the design?
A22: We are currently at Phase 1 Concept & Feasibility so there is no design at present. The design will be developed during Phase 3 (2024), after the Preferred Option has been identified.
Q23: How will I know if my property will be affected by the route?
A23: “Identification of the preferred route in Phase 2 will lead to discussions taking place on a one-to-one basis with the potentially affected landowners. The project promoter will take all reasonable steps to notify each property holder likely to be affected by the preferred route in advance of official public announcements…”
As the design progresses through Phase 3 and the landtake necessary for the construction and operation of the preferred option will be identified and those with property within the landtake will be notified.
Q24: What do I do if I want to object?
A24a Republic of Ireland: Formal objections can only be submitted after the Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) and the Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR) are published. In the interim, please feel free to contact the project team via the online feedback form, by email to slncr-greenway.com or by post to the Arup Dublin or Belfast office with your concerns as it may be possible to mitigate issues throughout the design process.
A24b Northern Ireland: Once the planning application has been made the public have the right to comment on the Environmental Statement or to object to the project. In the interim, please feel free to contact the project team via the online feedback form, by email to slncr-greenway.com or by post to the Arup Dublin or Belfast office with your concerns as it may be possible to mitigate issues throughout the design process.
Q25: How will my personal data be handled?
A25: Our full Privacy Statement with regards to the collection and usage of personal data is available on the project website. Personal data provided to the project team is stored securely and in accordance with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requirements. The data will only be used for the purposes of the SLNCR Greenway Project. Data will not be retained for any longer than is necessary.
Q26: How do I contact a member of the Project team to discuss the potential impacts on my property?
Q27: What about Insurance/Indemnities?
A27a Republic of Ireland: The Council will indemnify the landowner / farmer against all actions, claims and demands arising from the acquisition of the land for the construction and use of the Greenway. This would also be applicable for Investigation Works and Advanced Works.
A27b Northern Ireland: At present access to privately owned lands and land purchases would be by agreement only. Initial discussions around compensation, insurance/indemnities for cross border Greenway projects have been held at Department level. Any agreed approach will need to be backed by legislative measures by the Northern Ireland Executive. Updates on this topic will be communicated via the “FAQs” section of the project website and future consultation events.
Q28: How will farm severance be treated?
A28: We will seek “… to minimise severance on individual landholdings by following the perimeter of farm / existing field / property boundaries…” where practical to do so. In the event that severance to an integral part of the farm operation is unavoidable, then, an underpass or other appropriate structures / crossing or compensation in lieu will be provided by the project promoter on a case-by-case basis, in conjunction with the farmer / landowner and their Farmer Agronomist / Property Advisor.” [CBPNRG]
Q29: What will be boundary treatment between the Greenway and my property?
A29: “Fencing and boundary treatment will be discussed and agreed with the landowner and provided by the project promoter. … The type of fencing will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis with each landowner and their representative. … Permanent fencing including crossing points, if required, will be erected / replaced with appropriate materials in each case.”
“Where any fences, walls, boundary treatments or hedges are damaged they will be made good and will be reinstated with similar materials at least as good as heretofore, in a timely manner. Boundary fences erected as part of the Greenway will be maintained by the project promoter, unless otherwise agreed. …”
“The typical standard of boundary treatment will vary depending on land use. An example of standard fencing detail can be found here.” [CBPNRG]
Q30: What sort of business opportunities will the greenway bring?
A30: The development of the SLNCR Greenway will attract domestic and international visitors to come, explore and stay in the region. It will unlock the tourism potential of the counties it traverses and will provide opportunities for the development of a local tourism-based industry in the area. New developments and alterations use will still be subject to normal planning procedures / approvals.
Q31: What type of public facilities will be provided?
A31: As the route design has not begun a complete list of public facilities is not yet known. The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport have published Greenways and Cycle Routes Ancillary Infrastructure Guidelines and facilities typically provided along Greenways can include bins, toilet facilities, rest areas, picnic benches, fishing platforms, slipways for canoes / kayak access to rivers, parking areas, trailheads and viewing spots.