Friday 14 December 2018

Barrow Line campaign right on track

Decision based on protecting unique beauty of Barrow river

Broadcaster Olivia O’Leary beside the Barrow river. Pic: RTE
Broadcaster Olivia O’Leary beside the Barrow river. Pic: RTE

David Looby

The Barrow riverside grass path stretching from St Mullins through Carlow and south Kilkenny will not be surfaced with hard court after Carlow County Council refused permission to develop the Blueway route on ecological considerations and due to the potential conservational impact on the river.

Campaigners have been rejoicing at the decision to refuse planning permission for the riverside grass path which stretches across three counties. Olivia O'Leary, who is chairwoman of The Save the Barrow Line campaign group, said: 'I am so pleased and fair dues to Carlow County Council who took the brave step to refuse permission as this is a Special Area of Conservation.'

She welcomed Carlow County Council's decision, describing it as enlightened.

'The council acknowledged that the surface was going to leak into the Barrow when it floods.'

Laois County Council voted in favour of the Blueway, but along the county's canal and not along the Barrow, while Kildare County Council refused permission for the Blueway.

'The Barrow is untouched. The decision was made by Carlow and Kildare county councils on the basis of ecology and the environment. I am very pleased and particularly with Carlow County Council as they took into account that this is a very, very sensitive ecological area; one of the few special areas of conservation with a river path which is quite unique. We said from the beginning that this river floods and the surface would be a disaster for the area. People can walk on the grass and come here for pilgrimages as the path can take hundreds. The grass is tough and it grows back.'

Mrs O'Leary said some people will be disappointed with the decisions, adding that there are opportunities for the Barrow route to be developed to help local economies.'

The proposed Barrow Blueway is a Waterways Ireland initiative that would have seen a 112km walking and cycling track connect Lowtown in Kildare to St Mullins. Plans included the development of the old towpath, currently a grassy walkway, to accommodate 'tailored surface finishes', information and direction signs and other works which would run through counties Carlow, Laois and Kildare.

About 52km of the pathway is located in County Carlow, which took the decision to refuse permission on the basis of ecological considerations and the conservational impact on the river. 'This green grassy path along the Barrow is the jewel in Co Carlow's crown, the most beautiful riverside walk in these islands,' Ms O'Leary said.

'It deserves to be publicised for what it is, a peaceful wild way leading to the historic Abbey of Duiske in Graiguenamanagh and the seventh century monastic settlement in St Mullins.'

New Ross Standard