Sinn Féin TD for Kildare South and the Portarlington area of Laois, Patricia Ryan, has praised Waterways Ireland for their recent work on Athy weir, but expressed disappointment that work required to make the repair permanent may take over a year to complete.
Deputy Ryan said: “I have been in contact with Waterways Ireland for a number of weeks, since the issue was raised with me by local resident Thomas Redmond. I was delighted to see the team working at weekends to complete the works as quickly as possible. I have now been informed by Waterways Ireland that planning permission will be required to complete more permanent repairs. In the past, exemptions were available, but a lot of legislative changes from 2012 meant that they no longer have powers to carry out works within Special Areas of Conservation without getting planning permission first. This has been particularly onerous on the Barrow, most of which is an SAC , where they are now extremely limited in what maintenance works can be carried out.”
Waterways Ireland have told Patricia, “that due to the planning requirement we were only able to put in temporary dam and rock armour to protect the weir. This has protected the structure and allowed the levels to be restored. It is a pretty robust job and should hold for a considerable time, certainly long enough for us to get a planning application in place. In relation to planning permission we will apply for it as soon as possible but there is a lot of fieldwork to be carried out in advance, particularly ecological work. This work is seasonal, and it may be the end of the year before an application is ready for submission. We are also constrained as to when we can carry out in-stream works which is the period from July until September. With this in mind I would be hopeful that we could install permanent works in July next year. The planned works will use our water-based plant and machinery so no closures will be needed to carry it out.”
Patricia concluded “I understand why the process has to be followed, it’s just disappointing that it has to take so long. I will make further enquiries as to whether anything can be done to speed things up.”