A huge European cash award will help pay for a long-awaited greenway linking Middletown and Monaghan.
And now councillors must decide if it will commit funding tonight (Monday) as part of the four-way financial agreement.
The development – which would stretch along the Ulster Canal Corridor, from Smithsborough in Monaghan to Middletown in County Armagh – could be in place within the next number of years if all goes according to plan.
It would be part of an overall central government vision of three major greenways, one of which would involve linking from Belfast to Portadown, through Armagh and on to Monaghan.
The work on the local stage of the greenway – a dedicated cycle and walking path – is foremost on the agenda at this time.
Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council had previously agreed to support a Monaghan County Council funding bid to Interreg for the work.
The scheme was originally estimated to cost in the region of €6 million to complete. Andit was thought too that the funding bid would cover all of the costs involved – that was the hope certainly when the application was submitted in June.
But it has now been confirmed that Interreg will sponsor the local greenway – to the tune of €4,213,590.
The councils have been able to identify some areas for savings – in areas such as car park construction and land costs – giving a total cost of €4,957,165.
The EU funding will account for 85% of the overall costs, with Monaghan County Council and Waterways Ireland contributing €271,518 and €285,648 respectively.
The ABC Council will be asked tonight (Monday) to consider approving expenditure of €186,409 – which represents 4.4% of the project costs.
A draft copy of Stormont’s strategic plan on greenways – which would include the entire Belfast to Monaghan route – is expected to be published shortly.
The ABC Council is keen to press ahead, fully aware of the success and popularity of local greenways.
Earlier this year, a £1.3 million greenway between Portadown and Lurgan was officially opened.
The Monaghan to Middletown greenway had not been included in budget, as originally it was felt 100% funding would be provided.
But the council, if it approves the contribution, will include the cost in its capital programme budget for the next two financial years.
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