Waterways and grassy towpaths

 

Sir, – John Boyle of Waterways Ireland makes the extraordinary claim that Waterways Ireland does not propose to lay down a hard surface on the grassy Barrow towpath (June 20th). The compacted unbound stone and dust he describes is a hard surface. Try falling on it and you’ll soon find out!

Mr Boyle keeps talking about “upgrading” the towpath. What the Waterways plan will do is to downgrade the towpath, digging up a carpet of green grass and replacing it with a dusty grey path of stone and compacted dust.

As for his claim that Waterways Ireland’s various environmental surveys found that “little or no significant adverse effects impacts of the development were found”, it would seem that the three planning authorities to whom Waterways made its application are not at all so sure. Otherwise why would they have sent Waterways a request for further information that runs to 23 pages?

The request letter from Carlow County Council says that “the planning authority has significant concerns from an ecological, environmental, visual, and maintenance perspective of the proposed unbound surface”. The council’s letter expresses concern about the effect of the construction of the path on tree roots and hedgerows; on the back drains which are ecologically diverse; on flora and fauna; on listed species like otters, kingfishers; on bats and the Marsh Fritillary butterfly. It is concerned too about run-off from the unbound surface into the waterway during floods or bad weather.

Overall, it says that insufficient information has been provided to conclude that the proposed development will not have an effect on conservation objectives of the River Barrow and Nore SAC (special area of conservation).

What the Barrow towpath needs is not this insensitive development but more publicity, something tourism bodies have not given it over the years. There has been a sizeable increase in visitors to the line since this controversy started. Waterways own counters show a threefold increased at Leighlinbridge, and an almost twofold increase at St Mullins. Our vision for it it as a thoughtful Camino-style path, taking in the 13th-century monastic settlement in Graignamanagh and the seventh-century monastic settlement in St Mullins.

The grassy towpath is unique. Let’s keep it. – Yours, etc,

OLIVIA O’LEARY,

Chairwoman,

Save the Barrow Line,

Tinnehinch,

Co Carlow.