“We are putting in cycleways all over the country. And these guys have been requesting a cycle and footpath for years, and they've been ignored.”
The road between the coastal village of Loughshinny and Baldungan is a long and straight route that does not invite pedestrians.
Heading west from Loughshinny Beach, the footpath gets smaller.
Then, about 200 metres after a crossroads that sends people to both Skerries and Rush, the footpath just ends, leaving slim grassy verges for about 0.75km.
Eoin Stuart, a local resident and campaigner, says he has a 300-metre path-free walk to his house. “I’m one of the closer ones, and I’ve gotten used to it.”
A cluster of houses further along face more problems, he says. “Those people have a difficult time getting to the path, because there’s a curve down there that is very dangerous.”
Lorries use it as a main route into Skerries, he says. “It changes the nature of the road from being a rural road to actually being the thoroughfare for the most dangerous vehicles that could be coming down it.”
For around 30 years now, locals have been looking for Fingal County Council to put a safe walkway along this road, says Sinéad Lucey Brennan, a Fianna Fáil local area representative.
“They’ve asked time and time again for it to be built,” she says.
Stuart says too many short car journeys are being made just to get to nearby places like the school in Loughshinny or the pub. “We all want to walk. That’s becoming our catchphrase.”
Pushing it forward
Fianna Fáil Councillor Brian Dennehy says one reason a path is needed is because kids need to walk to the national school in Loughshinny.
Putting in a walkway was an objective in the last council development plan, which ran from 2017 to 2023. Dennehy had that inserted, he says.
In 2017, the council laid 50m of path, says Dennehy.
Drainage works happened in 2018, says Stuart. “That was meant to be preparation for putting the paths in. They piped some ditches that they could very easily put the path over.”
Stuart says progress came to a halt in 2019 because the council needed to put more capital funding towards it.
Locals decided to look elsewhere for the money, said Stuart. “We worked with a company called Aqua Comms, who had bought an internet cable into Loughshinny and needed a place to terminate it, but were having some problems with planning permission.”
They said they would help the company find land in exchange for support to build the path, Stuart says. “Their planning permission went through eventually. But they said they’d like to put a betterment fund into the community.”
In November 2021, independent Councillor Tony Murphy asked the council’s chief executive for a timeline for the footpath, saying that the Loughshinny community had found alternative funding.
Murphy was told that the route would need significant drainage infrastructure, he says. “And the removal of a number of ESB poles before any works could be constructed.”
Due to its scale, Murphy says, the project would need consent in accordance with the “Part 8” planning process – in which the council applies to itself for permission and councillors vote on it.
“The Strategic Infrastructure department needs to take ownership of the Part 8, deliver the planning permission, create the budget necessary and deliver the footpath,” said the response.
When Fingal County Council published its latest development plan, which runs from 2023 to 2029, it no longer mentioned building the footpath, says Lucey Brennan.
Objectives are decided by councillors, and its omission from the latest plan does not mean that it will not happen, says Murphy. “Objectives come in and out, and it just means it’s lesser on the priority list of delivery.”
A spokesperson for Fingal County Council did not comment when asked if it still had plans to create the footpath, or if there was a timeline for these works.
Last Thursday morning, locals, Lucey Brennan and some people representing St Brendan’s National School in Loughshinny walked the road as a protest.
Stuart met some neighbours for the first time at the march, he said. They told him they had been demanding a path for years, decades even.
“I met one lady, an activist, and she had photos from a protest 25 years ago,” said Stuart.
Murphy says it isn’t right that the route is dangerous for residents in Featherbed Lane, and further afield in Baldungan.
“We are putting in cycleways all over the country,” he says. “And these guys have been requesting a cycle and footpath for years, and they’ve been ignored.
Parents don’t let their children walk home from school, says Lucey Brennan. “Teenagers, young adults can’t walk home after a night out.”
It’s also a serious barrier for people with disabilities, she says. “You’ve no recourse for getting around. It’s a source of frustration for a very long time.”
The area around Loughshinny is not large, she says, just about 1,500 people. “But it feeds into larger towns. So it’s important that people can walk and get a bus to Skerries or Rush.”
Some locals don’t have cars, Stuart says.
And it’s dangerous for drivers, he said. “In winter or when it rains, you can suddenly realise there is somebody out there.”