John Holland, Laois Green Party representative in Portarlington
Just under 90% of a multi-million euro pot for Laois footpaths and cycle lanes last year was not spent last year according to Green Party representatives in the county who want all the money allocated to be invested.
Green Party Local Area Representatives John Holland and Rosie Palmer demanded that money is used after figures were released this week by the National Transport Authority (NTA) revealing that 87% of funding made available for walking and cycling infrastructure in Laois in 2021 was left unspent.
John Holland is the Local Aprea Representatives for the Greens in the Graiguecullen Portarlington Municipal District.
“In Laois our local authority was allocated €3.3m for walking and cycling projects throughout the county for 2021. However, according to figures released by the NTA, only €413,100 of this was spent.
"We need to do better for our community. It is understandable that the significant increase in funding since 2019 requires increased capacity, and there have been many additional challenges for our local authority during Covid. I note that 3 Active Travel staff have been appointed so far. Furthermore, engagement with the council in relation to planning for a cycle network in my own area of Portarlington has been encouraging and we hope that NTA funding will be made available for this large scale project.
"However, I am very concerned about progress to-date in this area and the impact this could have on delivering the infrastructure improvements needed to make active travel a viable and safe option for the people of Laois. Now there needs to be a step change in getting planned projects completed. We will continue to hold the council to account on this important matter,” he said in a statement.
“There is €3m allocated for Laois in 2022” said Rosie Palmer, the Local Area Representative for Portlaoise. “The money and the skills are there, now we need action. I’m asking the public to call on your local councillors, across every party, to demand safer paths and cycleways outside your homes, your schools, your places of work, to help create a safer and more liveable community. It’s time to put people first”
Cllr Mark Hackett is the Chairperson of the Laois/Offaly Greens.
“I recently sent a letter on behalf of Laois/Offaly Greens to both Laois and Offaly County Councils highlighting concerns over the level of active travel underspend. These NTA figures highlight again the need for urgent action to improve conditions for walkers and cyclists,” he said.
The Laois Offaly Greens say that as a result of decades prioritising cars in Ireland, many people in both rural and urban areas feel they have no option but to drive, even for short journeys. They claim that since being in Government, the Green Party has been addressing this by delivering record increases in investment in walking and cycling projects, jumping from €45m in 2019 to €289m nationally in 2022. These projects include new and improved pathways, cycleways, safe routes to schools and lighting.
The Greens added that the transport sector represents approximately 18% of Ireland’s carbon emissions nationally, with road transport and private car usage carrying the most significant carbon footprint. They say research indicates that an increase in walking and cycling could significantly reduce car use.
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