Claims that works being carried out on the Eglinton Canal are destroying the biodiversity of the region, are being carried out without consultation, and are in effect, a redevelopment of the canal, have been dismissed as incorrect by the Galway City Council.
The city council is currently carrying out cleaning of the Eglinton Canal. The canal was built between 1848 and 1852 and is a protected structure. However the works have comes in for fierce criticism from both local residents and An Taisce.
A resident in the nearby Presentation Road told the Galway Advertiser that "residents are very concerned about the so-called enhancement work being carried out on the canal banks. They are getting rid of all biodiversity contrary to their own plan".
In a letter to City Hall from An Taisce, by Derrick Hambleton, chair of the trust's Galway association, said the works were negatively impacting on the local environment and its biodiversity, and also visually. He accused City Hall of carrying out the works "without public consultation or with opportunity being afforded for statutory consultees to make submission". He alleged that the works "involve extensive clearance of natural species" and have "potential to lead to significant damage". Mr Hambleton called for the works to "cease forthwith, pending a full and public review" and "until it can be established" that permission for such works "was properly, legally given".
City Hall said An Taisce's complaint was noted, but that calls for consultation did not apply as the works being carried out were cleaning and "minor landscaping", and do not involve any form of "redevelopment".
The work is being carried out on behalf of the Lough Corrib Navigation Trustees. Concerns over the appearance and maintenance levels of the green spaces along the canal route were raised at numerous trustees’ meetings. As a result, the LCNT's 2017 annual work programme included for landscaping along the canal.
In September 2017, a landscape architect was procured to prepare a landscape plan for the Eglinton Canal, in accordance with the Galway City Council's Biodiversity Plan. The landscape architect was also required to take into account the size of the areas to be landscaped and the structures adjacent to those areas. The plan also specified the various species of plants and trees to be planted within each area.
The landscape plan allows for the removal of ‘planted’ ornamental non-native garden shrubs and trees, as well as self-seeded non-native species, such as buddleia and sycamore, which can colonise unmanaged ground. According to a report written for the Lough Corrib Navigation Trustees, seen by the Galway Advertiser, many of the shrubs along the route of the canal "had become leggy/woody through a combination of age and absence of care" and were in "relatively poor condition". The report also noted now many areas were "overgrown with invasive ground weeds".
According to the report, the works being carried out involve the "retention of any good quality native trees" such as ash and rowan, as well as naturalised trees "where they are not already in direct conflict or likely soon to be in direct conflict" with the canal walls. It is understood from the document that the planting regime will introduce two native tree species of "very high habitat value to wildlife" into the area, and that a "limited selection of ornamental amenity shrub species" have been chosen to accompany the programme of native tree planting, to be located "in positions where they will not conflict with future maintenance access to the canal banks".