'Spotters' operating on the greenway, says Dolan

A member of Athlone Moate Municipal District has made a startling claim that “spotters” are operating on the greenway in Athlone while burglaries are being carried out in houses along the route.

The claim was made by Fine Gael Cllr, John Dolan, who called on Westmeath County Council to install screening panels at particular points along the greenway route in an effort to protect the privacy and security of homes which are overlooked by the leisure amenity.

Cllr Dolan said the privacy and security of a number of homes along the greenway is being “severely compromised” at the moment due to the absence of any type of screening. Referring to the situation in Roslevin Lawns, he said the people using the greenway can “look straight into” the back lawns and doors of the houses in Roslevin Lawns.

“What is happening is that spotters are being put on the greenway while other people are breaking into houses,” he claimed, “and it is not good enough. 99% of people who use the greenway are using it for leisure purposes but it’s the other 1% that are causing all the problems.

Cllr Dolan was speaking on a notion in which he called on the council to engage with the gardai and local residents in areas that are overlooked by the greenway “with a view to providing CCTV and fencing off parts that overlook existing properties, particularly in urban Athlone.”

Cllr Dolan’s motion was supported by a number of his Ccouncil colleagues, including Aengus O’Rourke, Vinny McCormack and Tom Farrell.

Cllr McCormack said the residents of the Cartron Grange housing development in Moate had told him that walkers on the greenway can “look straight in their back doors” and that they have no privacy whatsoever. “I am sure this is a problem being experienced all over the country,” he said, “so perhaps it is an issue that we should be taking up with the Department of the Environment.”

In supporting Cllr Dolan’s motion, Cllr Aengus O’Rourke said every time he has raised this issue in the past he has been told that “planting will take care of the problem” but he pointed out that it would be another “five or six years” before the planting along the greenway in Athlone would provide screening for homeowners along the route.

Director of Services Barry Kehoe said he would like to remind members that before the greenway was developed the route was being used “for nefarious purposes” whereas now it is subject to “a huge amount of passive surveillance” which makes it very safe.

Mr Kehoe acknowledged that the new section of greenway from the White Gates to Athlone Marina “does expose a number of houses” to being overlooked, but he added that their “preferred option” would be to engage in a planting scheme which would also have benefits for biodiversity. He undertook to review the planting scheme at this location.

In its formal response to Cllr Dolan’s motion, the council said it had “no plans to erect barriers where properties are overlooked but if property owners wish they may erect such barriers on their side of the boundary.” It also pointed out that the Greenway is considered “a safe and enjoyable amenity” which is floodlit within the town and is subject to patrols by an Garda Siochana and inspections by council staff.

Speaking to the Westmeath Independent after this week’s Municipal District meeting, Cllr John Dolan said the “vast majority” of residents living in Roslevin Lawns had signed a petition calling for the erection of screening panels to protect their privacy.

“They presented the petition to me, which is why I raised the issue on their behalf, and I feel that interim screening should be put in place until such time as the planting scheme put in place provides sufficient screening,” he said