Top architect says plans for Limerick footbridge should be re-examined

River crossing set to cost around €14m

Fintan Walsh

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Fintan Walsh

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fintan.walsh@limerickleader.ie

Top architect says plans for Limerick footbridge should be re-examined

Cormac Smith, Chairman, Inland Waterways Association of Ireland, Coleman Byrne, Spokesperson, Limerick Open Navigation Group and Conor Sheehan, Curragower Boatclub Picture: Gareth Williams

A SENIOR architect with Limerick City and County Council has called for the controversial footbridge in the city to be re-examined due to its potential to have an “adverse effect” on navigation along the Shannon.

On May 24, councillors received a 12-page report from architect Rosie Webb, in which she detailed the council’s public consultation over the potential use of Limerick’s riverways.

In the correspondence, she recommends “the option for a long span bridge from Arthur’s Quay/Sarsfield House to Merchant’s Quay be re-examined due to its potential to have an adverse effect on the navigation of the River by boats”.

She said that the next step should be an enabling design review, which will deliver a framework for the development of the “appropriate infrastructure for the riverside”. It is hoped that a final report with recommendations will be made by this July. 

It is understood that the estimated €14m cost of the project will come from Government support and a philanthropic contribution.

In April, the council held a number of talks with the public in relation to the river and a proposed “riverway crossing”.

One of the key findings, published in the report, showed that boat users “believe that the current long span bridge proposals have the potential to prevent/block navigation through Limerick city”.

Other feedback and findings included the desire to swim in the river; more co-ordination around the opening of waterside gates; calls for “greater permeability and movement” from Arthur’s Quay and King John’s Castle; and increased activity along the river.

The report also states that Waterways Ireland, ESB, the Office of Public Works, the harbourmaster, and Fáilte Ireland “need be pulled together” and explore key issues in relation to the river.

Following Ms Webb’s presentation, Mayor Kieran O’Hanlon welcomed the public’s input and thanked her for the report.

Cllr John Gilligan claimed that all the boat clubs in Limerick “are totally against the project”, and warned that if the idea progresses, there will be “huge opposition”. 

Supporting the architect’s recommendation, a spokesperson for An Taisce said:

“Notwithstanding the difficulties it would create for boating navigation, this location is a particularly important one for Limerick city, and any interventions should be sensitive to its very rich heritage.”

The spokesperson added that it is committed to working with the council “to help bring about positive and progressive development” in the city. 

Conor Sheehan, Curraghgour Boatclub, also welcomed the report’s recommendations.

Colman Byrne, Limerick Open Navigation Group, told the Leader that, already, navigation in Limerick is “totally blocked”, and that there is poor activity as a large number of boaters have “the perception that the journey is just too risky”.

Cormac Smith, Inland Waterways Association of Ireland Powerboat Club, said that it is not possible to travel to Foynes or through the estuaries, as gate locks are only open for two hours on a Friday.

He said that for his association to arrange the trip, from the Midlands, it took “five weeks of work just to get here”.

“You couldn’t make a decision, saying that you would like to go to Limerick, because you can’t do that. Because you have to organise everything around getting through Ardnacrusha. And we were hoping to get down further, as far as Foynes, but because we can’t get through the lock, we’re here in Limerick. And it’s great for Limerick, but we would like to travel further, and bring new waterways to people. So, we have to plan, plan, plan, well in advance.”

“Most people in Limerick would prefer if the lock wasn’t there, or if the weir wasn’t there. Because we managed the river for the last hundred years without them,” Mr Byrne said. 

He added that Limerick has “lost” its rich river culture. Navigators must also be cognisant of Ardnacrusha hydroelectric station, which issues two days’ notice to the public when it will start to generate.