A meeting hosted by Senator Emer Currie in the Castleknock Hotel recently attracted over a hundred people from the Strawberry Beds, Dublin 15 areas, Palmerstown, Lucan, Celbridge, Leixlip and Clane regarding the re-opening of the once popular Farmleigh/Guinness Bridge, affectionately known as the ‘Silver Bridge’.
Those in attendance included public representatives from Dublin West, among them Deputy Emer Higgins, Cllrs Kieran Dennison, Siobhan Shovlin, Gus O’Connell, Palmerstown local area rep Sikandar Jahanzab and Clane Cllr Padraig McEvoy.
Speakers included Senator Emer Currie, Dr Paul Corcoran of the Rebuild Silver Bridge Campaign and Joe Byrne of the Liffey Valley Park Alliance.
Senator Currie outlined the need to update and prioritise the largely unimplemented 2006 Strategy ‘Towards a Liffey Valley Park’, undertaken by the Office of Public Works (OPW), and the local authorities of Fingal, South Dublin, Kildare and Dublin City.
€1.5m spent – but no council co-ordination to re-open bridge!
She said: “For years, progress has been inhibited establishing a Liffey Valley Park because of a lack of co-ordination across local authorities, the accessibility of the Liffey Valley, and private ownership issues.
“At the public meeting I pitched ideas on how we overcome those issues – like using active travel, walking and cycling routes, to provide better access to the stunning surrounds of the Liffey Valley and to take the same partnership approach between landowners and the Council that has worked in Mayo and many other counties to deliver trails and greenways.
“In fact, when the Great Western Greenway was launched, which spans environmentally sensitive areas as well as urban communities just like the Liffey Valley, over 160 landowners took part in the scheme and now there are more than 2,400 landowners across the country involved in similar projects. Now that Farmleigh Bridge has been restored to the tune of €1.5m, the public want to know how they can appreciate and use it.”
Key objectives in the 2006 Strategy include the protection of the Liffey Valley’s natural resources and cultural heritage, establishing it as an asset for the communities of West Dublin and building up the public parks and spaces centred on the creation of a larger Liffey Valley Park.
Senator Currie proposed a return to a dropped 2013 plan for a Liffey Valley Greenway or Trail – like the Great Western Greenway in Mayo – running from St Catherine’s Park in Leixlip and Lucan along the River Liffey into Islandbridge, taking in public parks and green spaces along the way such as Porterstown Park, Waterstown Park, Memorial Gardens in Islandbridge and the Phoenix Park, including the crossing at Farmleigh Bridge.
Dr Paul Corcoran gave an overview of the history and use of Farmleigh Bridge down through the years and what reopening the Bridge could entail.
Joe Byrne of the Liffey Valley Park Alliance proposed that the Liffey Valley be modelled on the Lagan Valley Park in Belfast which has strong environmental protections and access for the public.
Overall, there was broad support to pursue the opening of Farmleigh Bridge across the Liffey and the wider ambition of creating a walking and cycling trail to connect the public parks and establish an overarching Liffey Valley Park.
Strong concern was raised by some residents of the Strawberry Beds in relation to potential anti-social behaviour in their neighbourhood, the rights of private landowners and environmental protections.
Senator Currie added: “If we succeed in securing a walking and cycling route in the Liffey Valley, I think most of it would go on the southside where the majority of the land is, but there are opportunities for crossings onto the northside too which would be a fantastic amenity for communities on both sides of the river. I completely understand the concerns about anti-social behaviour, not just in the Strawberry Beds but in all communities and certainly, the design of any route and reopening of the Bridge would have to take it, as well security and safety into consideration.
She concluded: “The reality is, the Liffey Valley has fallen behind with environmental protections because the 2006 Strategy has not been progressed. Stronger recognition and status, not just in terms of inappropriate development but also for biodiversity and ecology is our number one priority. And only by working together can we achieve that.”
A petition remains open on change.org to reopen Farmleigh Bridge – all support appreciated.
Pictures: Facebook/Rebuild the Silver bridge