Weir restoration group seeks council help in progressing plans

The group aiming to revive the Thomastown weir and an amenity area on the River Nore upstream from Ardlands Inch Mill have asked Kilkenny County Council to help them proceed to the next step.

The group aiming to revive the Thomastown weir and an amenity area on the River Nore upstream from Ardlands Inch Mill have asked Kilkenny County Council to help them proceed to the next step.

The Thomastown Community River Trust gave an update on their progress at a meeting of the council’s Thomastown electoral area, where they outlined the work done since the group formed in 2008 after the weir was breached.

Group spokesman Gerald Costello noted that the trust has recently raised e14,000 from the community towards the project, and has received tenders for the early stage of the project on the back of a feasibility study they commissioned engineers in Limerick to carry out. They have also received support from Kilkenny Leader Partnership.

“We are at the stage where we have done a body of work and we are now at a crossroads and we need your help to finish the job,” Mr Costello said of their aim to get the paddlers, swimmers, anglers and the whole community using the river again. The hope is to have works carried out in the autumn of 2012.

Now that they have received the initial tenders, they are seeking assistance in evaluating what will be ideal for the area before applying for planning permission relating to the weir, which is privately owned.

Their hope is to have a restored weir and sluice, restored mill wheel, swimming pond, training pond, fish pass and canoe slalom, information boards and waymarkers, a walkway to Thomastown, boathouse and facilities, meeting rooms and a river educational resource centre.

It is unclear whether or how much the council could help with funding along the way, however.

“We are in a very demanding budget environment going forward, not only for the last two years but especially going into next year,” said director of services Philip O’Neill. “Everything we look at at the moment has to be in the context of what is available to us overall.”

Asked by Cllr Sean Treacy (FF) what the expected total cost would be, Mr Costello said the tenders for the project management up to the full design stage were around e80,000, with the final building stage estimated from a couple hundred thousand up to half a million euro.

“The preferred option is coming in at a couple hundred thousand and we feel there are cost savings in that,” Mr Costello said.

The group has also already managed to raise match funding to help meet the cost of both parts of the feasibility study.

Aside from the costs, the biggest obstacle is to try to meet the needs of all of the interests involved, including the Inland Fisheries Board, the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Office of Public Works (OPW). A proposal was made at the meeting to bring all of the groups together to assess the tenders and decide the best way to proceed.

Cllr Michael O’Brien (Lab) assured the group that the council would “do our utmost to move it on to the next stage” and that they could expect to hear back from the council “fairly soon”.