ANY view that Clare County Council has failed to utilise funding available to it under the Active Travel Scheme is not correct, the September meeting of Clare County Council heard.
Councillor Paul Murphy put forward a motion asking that funding be sourced so that an Active Travel/Sustainable Travel Officer be appointed to support the work already being carried out. He also asked for an update on monies drawn down, and what stage various projects are at.
A written reply to his motion from Council engineer Conor McDonagh stated, “Clare County Council has made a submission to the National Transport Authority (NTA) for additional resources including for an Active Travel Officer. We await a response from the NTA in this matter.”
His reply also gave an update on numerous projects, including ones already complete at Kilrush, Miltown Malbay, Doolin, Quin, Kilmurry, Clonmoney, Boston, Ruan, Lahinch and Ennis.
Councillor Shane Talty praised the impact of the scheme and said the Council have used it well. “We can be grateful that we applied for the maximum amount of projects that we can go for,” he commented.
Ennis councillor Johnny Flynn said he had been “very concerned” by a Clare Oireachtas member who had said there was over €5 million available for work in the county, but only 20% of it had been spent.
“The Oireachtas member made a call out for people to ask their councillors for footpaths to be upgraded, but they’re already planned to be done. From what I understand, the money is already called for,” he added.
Addressing the meeting, Senior Engineer John Leahy said, “The Active Travel programme for Clare has been a fantastic opportunity for Clare. We have been able to deliver projects that otherwise we would have difficulty getting funding and approval for.”
He said that while not all the available money was spent in 2021, Active Travel is in fact a multi year programme.
“We had a lot of schemes ready to go early on in the timeframe and there’s an acknowledgement that some teams take longer than a year and I’d like to point out that this programme of work is a five-year rolling programme and 2021 was year one of that programme. In 2021 we spent €1.26 million of the €5.7 million that was allocated.
“It was never going to be a case that the €5.7 million would be spent in year one. So far this year we have spent €1.35 million and the remainder will be spent by the end of November, the total spend this year will be €4.5 million, with €1.2 million last year, so that’s the €5.7 million that I spoke about earlier.”
Mr Leahy added, “There’s a rolling programme here and if you point out that you’re at a particular stage in a project and you apply for a roll over, they look at it very positively and roll it over to year two. That’s what happened last year.”
He said he is hopeful that Active Travel will be continued for years to come.
“They’re talking to us at the moment about a five-year programme and hoping to develop a second five-year programme to follow on from that.”
Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.