Waterways Ireland, which is funded by my Department, is working closely with Local Authorities and The National Transport Authority along the route of the Royal and Grand canals to advance development of the canal towpaths into long distance Greenways for walking and cycling.
With regard to the development of a towpath from Castleknock to the Fingal County border at Confey a distance of 8 km, Fingal County Council, funded by the National Transport Authority appointed consultants to investigate the options for the towpath development with a view to bringing a scheme through the planning process.
The design brief, route selection matrix and rationale were issued by Fingal County Council and a public consultation was carried out in February and March 2019. Work on this section will be dependent on the outcome of the planning application and then subject to funding.
From Confey to Maynooth, a distance of 9 km in Co Kildare, planning permission for towpath upgrade was granted in 2017. Kildare County Council has progressed the project to design and tender stage. This work is being funded by the National Transport Authority.
As both projects are still at a very early stage, I am not in a position to provide a timescale as to the completion of the development.
The Greenway initiative provides a stimulus for local economies in attracting tourists to local areas, especially rural areas, which historically may not have had a history of tourism activity. The Greenway and Blueway brands have been successful in attracting both overseas and Irish visitors to these areas and has resulted in extending the tourism season by many weeks.
Greenways and Blueways are not only very positive in creating economic wealth for an area but they also have measurable benefits for local populations in terms of health and well-being and social cohesion, as residents take extra pride in their locality as it becomes a place to visit by others.