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Dispute over funds for Castle Freke avenue footpaths

Friday, 18th January, 2019 10:05pm

Story by Siobhan Cronin
Dispute over funds for Castle Freke avenue footpaths

Evans Freke: ‘committed to funding the balance.’

A DISPUTE has arisen in Castlefreke over the funding for a planned footpath in an area called ‘The Avenue’ in Rathbarry village.

In December, local group Castlefreke Our Woods Our Walks (COWOW) said they had contributed 50% of the cost – a total of €7,275 – by way of a ‘community contribution’ to Cork County Council.

COWOW said the other 50% of the cost was to come from Rathbarry Tidy Towns, for the footpaths project, under the Community Involvement Scheme.

‘Castlefreke Our Woods Our Walks presented a cheque to Cork County Council as 50% of the community contribution towards the new footpaths. Work will commence early in the new year,’ the group said in a statement.

But last week, Castle Freke owner Stephen Evans Freke told The Southern Star that he had written to the County Council for clarification on the funding. 

‘My understanding from the County [Council] is that their funding for this project is coming from a programme specifically directed toward co-operative projects between the county and landowners adjoining county roads, and that all such grants have the requirement that the landowners contribute their portion of the costs.’

As a result, he said, he was willing to contribute his portion, given he is the landowner at Castle Freke.

‘This project was initiated long before the Our Woods Our Walks group came into existence and they were well aware that I was committed to funding it,’ he added.

On December 18th, Mr Evans Freke wrote to a Cork County Council engineer dealing with the project, stating that he wanted to ensure there was ‘no ambiguity’ over the agreement between the Council, Rathbarry Tidy Towns and himself, with respect to the proposed construction of the footpath.

‘This pathway was first suggested to the County by myself some two years ago, and was the subject of an application for funding by Rathbarry Tidy Towns over one year ago. I have repeatedly volunteered to provide the land for thispathway and to contribute to its cost, as I have been increasingly concerned for the safety of the many pedestrians now using the avenue for recreational walking, while local traffic is often driving on the same roadway at unsafe speeds, with insufficient width for two vehicles to pass each other safely.’

He said the Council has committed to funding 85% of the cost with the Tidy Towns committing €1,000. ‘I am committed to fund the balance,’ he said in his letter, adding: ‘To be very clear, this is a joint project between the County [Council], Rathbarry Tidy Towns and ourselves as the adjoining landowner. We have no interest in accepting funding or involvement of any other parties in this project on our land. This is the only basis upon which we are agreeing to move forward with this project.’

Regarding the money raised by COWOW, Mr Evans Freke told The Southern Star:  ‘Hopefully now they can redirect the funds they have raised to another project in the locality, perhaps on Coillte lands.’

But COWOW have said that by last November €8,000 was raised from members and supporters in just one week to help fund the new ‘Cork County Council footpaths’ along the ‘Avenue’ in Castlefreke Woods and also adjacent to Long Strand. ‘Under the Community Involvement Scheme, the local community is required to contribute 15% of the overall cost of €105,000. COWOW and Rathbarry Tidy Towns each committed to raising 50% of the local community contribution.’

In their end-of-year statement, COWOW said they were ‘looking forward to an equally productive 2019, during which we will maintain vigilant against any new bid to purchase any, or all, of Castlefreke Woods, while seeking also to develop this superb public recreation area and protect its ecology.’

COWOW was formed last year after a large public gathering in Rathbarry village in mid-May and a larger public meeting in the Celtic Ross Hotel.

‘Our immediate objective of preventing the sale of 65 acres of woodland in Castlefreke Woods by Coillte to a private individual was successful within one month, due to the efforts and support of many people locally and beyond,’ the group stated.

‘Hundreds of people joined community walks in the woods, the Coillte CEO and board were made aware of the community opposition to the sale, local representatives lent their voice to the campaign.’ (Jim Daly 

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