Plans to extend a Newry Canal greenway to the border with the Republic of Ireland have been deferred at the 11th hour to asses environmental and safety concerns.
The ‘Carlingford Lough Greenway’ opened in 2018 in Newry and the scenic stretch of land along the edge of the Newry Ship Canal and Clanrye River is used by pedestrians and cyclists.
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council’s planning committee was due to sign off on a 1km long extension to the existing public path continuing on from Victoria Lock to Carlingford in Co Louth on Wednesday, October 18.
However, Narrow Water Bridge Community Network (NWBCN) spokesperson, Adrian O’Hare brought forward his organisation’s concerns with the group considering a potential judicial review.
He said: “The council has failed in its duty to consult publicly and consider in good faith the alternative proposals from NWBCN, in failing to do this the council will incur unnecessary expense to the public.
“All of what we have had to engage with the council on this matter has been extremely disappointing and we feel it our duty to consult with our members, because they are certainly talking to us about taking legal advice and judicial review.
“Our concerns are, a risk to health and safety, unnecessary environmental and ecological damage and the plans being not fit for purpose.”
The initial greenway project was funded by the European Union INTERREG VA programme managed by SEUPB which has agreed to an extension of the project to December 2023.
In an update on funding, NMDDC has stated that it is continuing to work with the lead partner, Louth County Council to complete the project.
Mr O’Hare added: “We have spent some considerable time making a report on the environmental as well as health and safety concerns of this greenway.
“We are in the middle of a climate crisis, where councils should have to develop green infrastructure and this plan ignores completely the proposed Narrow Water Bridge, which we have every good reason to believe, the main contract for the bridge will be announced before the end of the year.
“This greenway has all been driven by the tourist dollar, there has been no account given to the urgent need to create green infrastructure and to integrate the Narrow Water Bridge into fully and integrated travel.
“There are two glaring health and safety issues.
“In terms of the four meter wide board-walk for cycling, according to the department for transport guidelines is too narrow.
“It will require serious security maintenance, which will fall to the ratepayers.
“The more you increase the cycling for your tourist dollars, the more you increase the risk.
“There is a dangerous drop on either side into very dangerous waterways.
“As someone who has a lot of experience and knows the dangers in commuter and family cycling, we are seeking a site visit to show the dangers.
“It will get more dangerous as time goes on as we fundamentally need under the Climate Change Act NI to have to actually increase cycling usage.”
The chamber agreed to an on-site visit following the conclusion of meeting.
The Local Democracy Service understands the greenway plans could be considered again by the committee next week .