Olivia O'Leary and two others at a protest meeting on the River Barrow last summer.
A controversial leisure route for cyclists and hikers which was approved by the county councils in Laois and Kildare but refused permission in Carlow is now the subject of appeals to An Bord Pleanala.
Appeals have been lodged with the board against the granting of permission for the Laois and Kildare sections of the proposed project by Waterways Ireland, which would see a 115km multi-use shared leisure route built across the three counties.
The Barrow Blueway would have commenced in Lowtown, Co. Kildare, passed through Co. Laois and finished in St Mullins, Co. Carlow, but Carlow County Council refused permission.
Laois County Council granted conditional planning permission, subject to 25 conditions, for the shared leisure route on the existing towpath through Killinure to Bawn along the Grand Canal, and refused permission for the development of land on the existing towpath through Crossneen, Ballyhide, Clogrenan.
Kildare County Council granted permission for a Kildare portion of the Blueway.
Appeals have now been lodged against the Laois development by the Save The Barrow Line group, as well as Shane Doherty and Sarah Murray, Paul O'Connell, and Art Mooney. The Save The Barrow Line group has also lodged an appeal against the Kildare approval.
During the initial planning process, Save the Barrow Line, represented by chairperson Olivia O’Leary, made a submission to Laois County Council saying they had a petition with approximately 5,000 signatures calling for the retention of the grassy surface on the Barrow towpath.
The group claimed that an Environmental Impact Statement dealing with flooding provided by the applicant was “woefully incomplete and misleading” and the flooding risk assessment was incomplete.
Among many issues raised, the group had concerns for local wildlife species and tree roots, and included in their submission a report from an independent ecological consultant.
A submission was also made during the planning process by Paul O’Connell, P. O’Connell Farms, Ballintogher, Ballybrittas, Portlaoise.
He raised concerns over the entrance to his lands being blocked by the proposed new car park and pointed out that the OPW already had a car park along this route which had to be closed due to antisocial behaviour.
He also said that the track should be moved to the opposite side of the canal.
And a submission was also made by Art Mooney, Killian’s Crescent, Carlow, who said that none of his concerns had been addressed adequately by the applicant.
He expressed fears over the denuding of the landscape, loss of character of a heritage landscape, and the measured loss of biodiversity. He also raised health and safety concerns as the proposed width of 2.5m cannot be achieved in all sections, and said the flood risk plan omits significant details concerning previous flooding events.
“The applicants have not adequately demonstrated that the proposed development will not have an adverse impact on the built and natural environment,” he said.
The matter is now being decided by An Bord Pleanala. Waterways Ireland have also brought a first party appeal to the board, against an element of the decision made by Laois County Council.