The Barrow Study 01: head and tail

This page is about some of the early sections of WI’s The Barrow Corridor Recreational, Tourism and Commercial Product Identification Study of 2012.

Chapter 1 and Appendix A

Appendix A (section 8; 1 page) lists the members of the steering group. Chapter 1 (9 pages) includes the cover, the contents list and a summary for executives (what’s wrong with a plain unvarnished summary?).

The preface

The report has this preface:

The River Barrow is designated in its entirety as a Special Conservation Area under the EC Habitats Directive. Such sites are collectively referred to as Natura 2000 sites.

Under the Directive, development on or adjacent to Natura 2000 sites requires a Habitats Regulations Assessment. This is also the case for a development that is not within the site but which may have an effect on it.

Within this study there has been a robust assessment of the vulnerability of both the River Barrow SAC and the whole area within one mile of the river. This assessment has been used to ensure that proposals arising from the study are unlikely to impact on the designation features of the site.

Should the agencies that funded the study decide to advance any of the proposals these will be subject to full ecological assessment in line with legal requirements.

That SAC designation explains the prominence that environmental matters get in the report and it is useful to have the point made early on.

The terms of reference

Chapter 2 Background and terms of reference (4 pages) makes clear what the study is about:

The study focus is on identifying the recreational and tourism potential within the Barrow Navigation Study Area […].

The area is from Lowtown to Barrow Bridge, so it includes the Barrow Line of the Grand Canal, the Barrow Navigation, the estuary of the Barrow and the estuary of the Nore to Inistiogue. It covers:

  1. A one-mile immediate core waterway zone around the edge of the Barrow Navigation — this zone is the area for detailed landscape and ecological studies.
  2. A fifteen-mile study zone which is the basis for the tourism and recreation product audit and product development recommendations.

So the study is about recreation as well as tourism and it aims to identify potential (rather than, for instance, providing a definitive plan), which is fair enough.

It is significant, though, that the defined area excludes the two waterways by which boats can get to the Barrow: the Grand Canal (from Dublin and Waterford) and the Suir estuary.

The literature review

Under the heading 2.2 The Study Brief, we read:

2.2.2 The main stages of the study were to prepare

  • A literature review of the planning, tourism and recreation context of the study area and the relevant existing reports and studies
  • A Product Audit of the existing products, demand and tourism trends of the Barrow Navigation and its environs
  • A survey and map to identify vulnerable landscapes within the study area; and
  • Production of an action plan and timeline, scoped against individual County Development Plans, to achieve the development of identified locations along the Barrow Navigation and surrounding area into tourism development sites. The action plan will also attribute responsibility and key actors to the delivery of key points within the plan.

The survey and map, mentioned in the third point, are certainly there, but the literature review is not. There is a list of references in Chapter 12 (Appendix F), but they’re all about environmental matters. Perhaps the literature review was held out of the published document, but if so I think it’s a pity. As it stands it is difficult to see why certain programmes, or elements thereof, are suggested in the report.

The planning sections

Chapter 4 Planning Policy Review (11 pages) provides the best laugh in the document:

There is a clear hierarchy of planning policy which will impact upon the development of tourism and recreation within the study area. At the national level the key policy documents are the ‘National Development Plan 2007-2013’ and the ‘National Spatial Strategy 2002-2020’. This policy is translated to a regional level through the Regional Planning Guidelines. The study area falls within the jurisdiction of three Regional Planning Authorities which includes the South East, Midlands and Greater Dublin Area.

Even the misbegotten excuse for a government that published the spatial strategy didn’t take it seriously, so I doubt if it counts for much these days. However, this conference [PDF] may have produced evidence to the contrary. The chapter doesn’t really do anything to suggest that there is any integration of policy; it simply lists the tourism, recreation and waterway policies of counties, towns and other areas. The list is extraordinarily boring.

However, apart from proving that these areas all have some interest in the matter, the listing, and the more detailed discussion in Appendix B (section 9; 39 pages), don’t get explicitly integrated with the rest of the report. The written report does not integrate or analyse the wishes expressed in the many plans listed and it does not show how the report’s proposals have been guided by the plans. That gives the plans the status of ritual invocations rather than of useful guidelines.

That is not, of course, to say that the plans were not taken into account or did not guide the authors’ thinking, but the reader cannot tell the extent to which that happened. And the listing of plans probably keep the county councillors happy.

The environment sections

Chapter 5 (37 pages including maps) describes the environmental constraints, categorises the landscape and provides ecological baseline information. It covers water issues:

5.1.4 Future projects emerging from the Action programmes in chapter 6 will have regard to current and future flood relief schemes and OPW Flood Risk Management Guidelines.

5.1.5 The River Barrow over the majority of its length currently has good water quality. The river has improved its status at many of the monitoring points in recent years, however at 5 of the 15 points the status is still regarded as moderate. The Water Framework Directive requires all waterways to be of good ecological status by 2015.

Oddly enough, it does not mention the removal of large amounts of water from the Barrow: some reassuring words, in line with those provided by the consulting engineers, would have been welcome.

Appendix E (section 11; 7 pages) illustrates visual landscape categories for stretches of the Barrow Line, the Barrow and the estuary. Appendix F (section 12; 39 pages) gives more “Ecological Sensitivity Details”.

I know little about environmental matters so there is little useful comment I can make.

This next page is about the English Norman Barrow.


One response to “The Barrow Study 01: head and tail

  1. Pingback: For spatial cadets | Irish waterways history

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