An Bord Pleanála refuses permission for Waterways Ireland ‘Blueway’

An Bord Pleanála has rejected Waterways Ireland’s appeal against the refusal by three local authorities of its application for the installation of hard surfaces along the River Barrow for all of County Carlow and part of County Laois and County Kildare.

This issue, which has created well-coordinated opposition by various groups supporting the continuation of the current grassy towpath and gentle management to preserve the relaxed character of the river and track and its associated wildlife has highlighted the unnecessary intrusion and destructiveness of some of Waterways Ireland’s actions.

It also highlights the body’s lack of commitment to biodiversity in its rush to exploit natural resources to turn a tourist profit. The decision also suggests a lack of realism and one wonders how wisely money was spent in pursuing this agenda.

On a related note, the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has replied to our query concerning Waterways Ireland’s tree-felling along the Barrow.  The National Parks and Wildlife Service has told us that Waterways Ireland did not, as they should have done, consult NPWS concerning the tree-felling works carried out.  The reply from NPWS made it clear that Waterways Ireland did not check if a screening assessment for the tree-felling was required. Because this screening assessment was not done, it is not possible to say if the tree-felling needed ministerial consent or whether planning consent was needed.

It will be interesting to see if any action is taken by NPWS or Waterways Ireland to attempt to restore the habitat. Trees should be planted to replace those removed.

It is, unfortunately, quite disheartening that Waterways Ireland, a public body, cannot be trusted to follow the procedures laid down in the EU (Birds and Natural Habitats)Regulations 2011 and the parent Birds’ and Habitats’ Directives. Conservation bodies will need to remain vigilant.

Finally, congratulations and thanks to everyone who contributed to the campaign to protect the Barrow.