County Carlow Chamber has released the results of a survey that was conducted earlier this year among its own members in relation to the River Barrow Towpath project proposed by Waterways Ireland. The Bluweay has divided opinion in the country, with opponents of the project fearing the environmental consequences if the plan goes ahead. The Chamber survey revealed strong support among its members. Chamber CEO Brian O’Farrell discusses the results
The survey was designed to gain input and understanding from Chamber members in relation to the proposed development of the River Barrow Towpath by Waterways Ireland.
The application for development of the towpath was submitted earlier this year to County Councils in Carlow, Laois and Kildare. The development proposes to create a more accessible surface that will function in all seasons on 115km of the River Barrow towpath from Lowtown Co. Kildare to St Mullins in Co. Carlow.
In the survey, members were asked if they were in favour of the Barrow Towpath Development Project going ahead, 90.7% of respondents indicated that they are in favour of the project going ahead. There was a strong view among the responses in favour of the project that it would act as a significant tourism asset for Carlow and the region, and potentially be a catalyst for growth in the tourism industry. Responses also highlighted that the development would make the towpath more accessible to everyone, particularly individuals who cannot enjoy it at present for various reasons including those with limited mobility. In its current form the towpath can become impassable at times and the surface is not suitable for those who are infirm, wheelchair bound or pushing a child’s buggy.
Of the remaining responses, 4.6% indicated that they were undecided on the matter while another 4.6% indicated that they were not in favour of the project proceeding. The main reasons given by members who were not in favour of the project were that they felt it should not proceed for environmental reasons or that the River Barrow Towpath is currently underpromoted as an amenity and that should be changed.
The members were asked if they felt that there was enough information available on the project in the public domain. This question was included as it was very important to ensure that individuals and businesses could make a properly informed decision on the proposed development. In total 73% felt there was enough information available with 26.6% indicating that they did not feel they had adequate information on the project.
The towpath development spans over 115km and the majority of this development runs through Co. Carlow. The impacts from the completion of this project would be wide ranging both directly and indirectly on businesses throughout the county and beyond. While these impacts are not yet fully evident, respondents were asked whether they felt the development of the towpath could impact on their business. 33.9% felt it would have a direct impact on their business and an additional 32.3% said that they were unsure about the potential impact. The remaining 33.8% said that they didn’t feel that it would have an impact on their particular business.
The results of the survey showed overall that a strong majority of respondents are in favour of the Barrow Towpath development going ahead as they see the potential this has for the growth and development of Carlow and the region as a tourist destination and its potential to create further investment and jobs in this area. In addition, it was noted that the works would ensure that the towpath is more accessible for everyone to enjoy.
The County Carlow Chamber represents over 170 businesses throughout the County including many of the county’s largest employers. In total, Chamber members employ approx. 4500 people across the county operating in a range of sectors including tourism, retail, manufacturing, services and education. Carlow businesses also contribute over €14m annually in commercial rates towards the local economy, that is in addition to the contributions from employment, taxation and significant contributions through community support and sponsorship.
What Chamber Members said:
Anthony Dooley, Dooley Motors Carlow
“This is the single biggest investment project that I have seen promoting Co Carlow and I would strongly encourage the people of Carlow to support it. If this project is not given the go ahead, I believe it will be very difficult to look for support for future projects promoting Carlow.
The feedback from both the Waterford Greenway and the Wild Atlantic Way has only been hugely positive and why can’t we expect the same for Carlow.
As far as I’m concerned this proposed Blue way project is a no brainer and I truly hope it comes to fruition and puts Carlow on the map.”
Tony Harney, Harney Nolan Chartered Accountants
“The Barrow Blueway will be good for the health of our citizens. It will be good for the business of our towns and villages. Let the Barrow be for everyone”
David Walsh, Netwatch System
“The Barrow towpath is one of Carlow’s and the regions greatest assets, which at present is totally underutilised. We need to capitalise on this distinctive capability both for local people and also for the development of the Barrow in the tourism market, ensuring that the region develops a sustainable advantage. We must ensure that this great area is accessible to all; to sit idly by and do nothing is not acceptable.”
Michael Garvan, EBS Carlow
“On a commercial view the proposed works to the Barrow Towpath make perfect sense and should be completed; however, I would also have reservations about the environmental impact of the project both in the short and longer term”
Joe Tully, Tully’s Travel Ltd
“Holiday trends in Europe are moving towards Greenway Walks, Eco and Activity Tours for one week’s duration.
The 115 km River Barrow and Canal Walk from Robertstown Co Kildare to St. Mullins, this is a unique route and is ideally suitable with its spectacular landscape, cultural visits, archaeological heritage and the opportunity to discover the hospitality of the locals offered along the Barrow Way
This type of tourism gives employment in small / medium businesses along the Barrow to the benefit of the full community
The development of the Barrow towpath by Waterways Ireland is a “MUST”
Yvonne Jones, Chamber President
We here in Carlow are hugely fortunate to be custodians of a truly magnificent county. The River Barrow is a unique and beautiful asset that should be made accessible to all. Families with small children or those with limited mobility currently find it extremely difficult to access and enjoy this beautiful resource due to the absence of a proper surface.
As a county, we would be foolish not to seize this opportunity with both hands, we simply cannot allow ourselves to be passed by other counties who are willing to work together to make the very best of the assets available to them on their doorsteps.
Eoin Kehoe, Kehoe Auctioneers
I have been heartened recently by the tremendous success that has been achieved by Waterford and Dungarvan in similar schemes and feel that Co. Carlow should be more than capable of successfully harnessing the natural amenity that is the Barrow Towpath to the benefit of a broader group of citizens. In the end, the towpath is a man-made feature whose original function has been superseded by technology, why not re-imagine this obsolete infrastructure for the betterment of all, or at least a wider group of people?