Council commits to fencing some rural parts of greenway

What was described as “an ongoing saga” moved closer to a resolution this month when Westmeath County Council committed to installing “stock-proof fencing” along some rural sections of the greenway between Athlone and Mullingar.

The matter was raised by Cllr Tom Farrell, who told the January meeting of the Municipal District of Athlone Moate that he had been looking for the installation of greenway fencing in rural areas of the county for several years. He said, in the absence of action by the local authority, some farmers have had to pay to install their own fencing on the greenway because their cattle had been breaking out on to it.

“In fairness to the council, I know that they’ve carried out surveys and identified the major areas that need to be fenced as quickly as possible,” said Cllr Farrell. “I don’t expect the whole thing to be done overnight, but the farmers will work in conjunction with the council on it.”

Director of services Barry Kehoe said the council had decided to take a new approach to the issue of greenway fencing. It had previously been offering to contribute to the cost of individuals providing their own fencing, but it will now begin providing the fencing in areas where it’s deemed necessary.

Mr Kehoe indicated there wouldn’t be a need for fencing on all rural sections of the greenway, but it would be required in certain areas where livestock was present. He said the fencing work, on behalf of the council, should be under way before the end of March.

“I’d hope we’d be able to start that work in the first quarter of this year, and hopefully we’ll be able to do a lot of it without interfering too much with hedges. We’ll see how that goes,” said Mr Kehoe.

Cllr Farrell asked about compensating some farmers who had paid out of their own pocket to fence sections close to the greenway. Mr Kehoe replied that the council would assess that on a case-by-case basis. “We will be fair to them. In fairness, they shouldn’t be penalised,” said Mr Kehoe.

The issue of fencing on the greenway in Athlone was raised by Cllr Aengus O’Rourke, who said commitments had been given by the council recently, “particularly on the most recent section of the greenway, at the White Gates, past Dr O’Meara’s house, along Roslevin”.

“Some of those houses are quite exposed and I’d certainly like to see us follow up on that commitment and provide that fencing for security reasons,” said Cllr O’Rourke.

Mr Kehoe said the district engineer was in the process of providing fencing at Altown, Garrycastle. He acknowledged the points that had been raised in relation to the fencing on the new White Gates to Marina section.

“Additional planting has been installed on that section in the recent past. I was told that it was completed before Christmas, but I haven’t had a chance to inspect it yet,” said Mr Kehoe.

“I will inspect it and we’ll see what additional barriers might be needed in the short-term until that planting takes hold and provides a permanent natural, renewable barrier between the greenway and those houses.”