The proposed 22-kilometre Kilkenny Greenway, which will connect Waterford to New Ross and link into the Waterford Greenway, is a clear demonstration of Kilkenny County Council’s commitment to regional development. That was the message emphasised at last Wednesday’s Piltown Municipal District meeting in Ferrybank, where it was confirmed to Councillors that a €10 million application for Greenway Strategy (2018-2021) funding had been submitted the previous Friday.
The funding proposal, which was led by Wexford County Council, represents the lion’s share of the estimated total spend of €13.3 million required to deliver the project. Kilkenny County Council Economic Director of Services Sean McKeown said that the “boat had certainly been pushed out” in terms of the application, which also included marketing and business plans. Drone footage of the entire route had also been recorded and included in the submission, he added while provision had also been made for the installation of ‘greenway furniture’ such as picnic areas, trails, planting and screening.
Admitting that the €10m application was “ambitious” in the context of the available national funding pot of €53m, Mr McKeown told Councillors that it was worth “aiming high” with this proposal.
The initial element of the project would involve the removal of the physical train track as part of a licensing agreement with CIE, and the installation of ducting along the entire route. Four greenway car parks are to be built, one each at either end of the route, with two more to be installed at yet to be designated locations, Mr McKeown added.
“This proposal has been considered and framed from the perspective that this will, in time, become an international attraction with an economic dividend,” he said, before referencing the AECOM report which underlined the initial success of the 46-kilometre Waterford Greenway. Between March and December 2017 (prior to its branding), the report found that almost 250,000 people, 141,000 of whom were on bikes, had accessed the Greenway. Of the 1177 respondents surveyed by Amárach Research, 80 per cent of visitors from outside of Waterford had stayed in paid accommodation, and spending over €100 per night.
Some 41 per cent of respondents said they spent money while on the Greenway, with the average food and drink spend coming to €28.50. “Taking all of this into account, you’re talking about an approximate spend, generated by the Waterford Greenway, which comes to €7.8 million”.
Applying the South East Action Plan for Jobs arithmetic which state that 18 additional jobs are created for every 1,000 overseas visitors, Mr McKeown said that 125 jobs had been created as a result of the Waterford Greenway thus far. “So when you take the Waterford figures into account, along with the 13.5 per cent VAT rate which will bring in another €1m a year in revenue, we believe that the payback period in terms of the €10m application would be about 10 years.” He also said that the new greenway’s linking into the Barrow Way would also add significant weight to the further deepening of the region’s tourism strategy. Four tenders are now interested in developing the greenway, with Mr McKeown hopeful that construction would commence “in Q3 or Q4 of 2019”.
He added: “Unlike Waterford, where there was an abandoned line, in our case we’re talking about a disused line with very little additional land take required, nor does it include the crossing of a national primary route. But what we do not have is a settlement on the route, unlike Kilmacthomas in Waterford, so the lack of ‘animation’ on the trail is certainly something we’ll be examining and attempting to address in due course.”
On that point, Cllr Eamon Aylward (FF) said: “What’s good for New Ross and Waterford is good for us, and the link into the Barrow Way would also have enormous benefits for the South East.”
District Chair Ger Frisby (FF) added: “In terms of the initial economic impact, I don’t think anyone is going to be in a position to say we’re putting Kilkenny’s interests ahead of the wider region since the economic impact probably won’t be fully there from a Kilkenny perspective to begin with anyway.”
Liaising with local residents along the route will continue (having already been facilitated by the IFA), and Gardaí from the relevant divisions will be consulted in due course by both local authorities.