Dublin City Canals Study was launched by Lord Mayor Gerry Breen and
Minister for Community, Equality & Gaeltacht Affairs, Pat Carey T.D. in
the Waterways Ireland Visitors Centre in Grand Canal Quay, Dublin on
20th July last.
The study is formally entitled “Dublin City Canals - Recreational
Tourism & Commercial Product Identification Study and Development of an
Investment and Maintenance Framework” and was prepared by
& Countryside Consultancy
on behalf of Waterways Ireland, Fáilte Ireland, Dublin Docklands
Development Authority and Dublin City Council.
Firstly, it is a welcome development to have all of the above bodies
co-operate to deliver this report.
The study was prepared over an 18-month period and its primary goals
- examine existing activities on the Canals; identify achievable
projects; and establish the necessary investment and maintenance
framework for the Dublin City Canals.
- identify an overall ‘Vision’ for the development of the City
Canals; identify recreational, tourism and commercial projects for
agreed sections of the Canals; as well as formulate an investment,
development and maintenance framework for the study area.
The 75-page report is ambitious in scope. It includes a synopsis of
18 existing policy documents, city plans, local area plans, management
frameworks and the like. Keen readers will recall that a web-based
survey was conducted as part of the study, in early 2009. That survey
generated 450 responses 28% of whom claimed to participate in boating
activities on the canals.
The area covered by the study includes both Royal & Grand canals
within the M50 including Grand Canal Dock & Spencer Dock.
Figure 1 Map indicates how both canals were sectioned for analysis
purposes and also for making area-specific recommendations.
Issues, challenges and opportunities for each section of the canal
were considered separately.
On the Royal Canal, the report identifies some issues that will be
familiar to many –
Interestingly, opportunities include:
- A new surfaced towpath needs to be provided at a minimum,
linking with new walkways at Spencer Dock and preferably providing
walking access to both sides of the dock
- Boat traffic to this section of Spencer Dock needs to be
facilitated through new operational arrangements for lifting rail
- Space to create a safe secure marina on eastern side of canal -
exact location to be determined
Sadly, it is hard to imagine a more difficult place to site a secure
harbour. Land access is needed to any marina and the eastern side of the
Royal Canal above Sheriff St. Bridge can only be accessed by crossing
multiple rail tracks – a very expensive proposition. Strange! The report
also mentions the possibility of a marina within plans to redevelop
Mountjoy Prison as well as the planned marina at Ashtown. That’s the
first we’ve heard of a possible marina at Mountjoy.
Issues with Grand Canal Dock include:
- Major under-utilised body of water close to the City Centre and
in the centre of major redevelopment area
- Lack of activities and boats
- Operation of moorings
Again, these are issues that the Dublin branch of IWAI has
highlighted many times.
The report acknowledges that “although through-navigation on
either canal is not a priority for this study, increased boat usage of
any type on any section of the canals would undoubtedly help in their
appeal to residents and visitors and raise their profile for commercial
operators of various types“. In addressing tourism potential, the
report also states that “a basic need for this market is for boat
hire from within Dublin and for secure berths both to access the city
and travelling country wards a day’s distance apart”. Dublin IWAI
have made these points in many submissions to various parties over the
years. Sadly, the report also adds that support for cruising tourism
“is only a priority from year 5 onwards”.
However, with the opening of the Royal Canal at the end of this year
and the possible rapid resolution of some of the navigation difficulties
mentioned above, a quick resolution to the question of mooring in Grand
Canal Dock is needed. Currently, mooring in Grand Canal Dock is actively
Support for sailing within the area is dismissed as a possibility.
Long-time readers may recall the Docksports proposals prepared by
Rory Walsh in 2008 which envisaged a community-focused sailing school in
Grand Canal Dock and the Liffey between the two canal basins. Sad to see
this has not been considered in the report.
Another quibble – the report has several photos of narrowboats on
various English canals to illustrate an active waterway but none of the
annual Dublin IWAI Rally which perhaps better illustrate an animated
Dublin canal. There are literally hundreds such
photos on the Dublin Branch Website.
The commissioners of the report have agreed a vision and set of
objectives for the canal areas. These are:
- A healthier canal corridor with safe spaces for people and
wildlife to enjoy and which contribute to an improved quality of life
for the communities of Dublin
- A wealthier canal corridor with thriving and attractive
business, social and residential districts
- A vibrant and attractive canal corridor which attracts visitors
from far and wide, with an appeal based on the canal heritage and
opportunities for activity.
- A sustainable canal corridor where people can move freely
without cars in a high quality environment
- A well used, well managed and well maintained inland waterways
The report identifies a wide range of possible water based activities
that would assist in the general rejuvenation of the canals, without
requiring regular through-navigation. These include:
- Day trips
- Horse drawn barges
- Barges converted to use by those with disabilities
- Youth activities e.g. Bell Boats
- Floating educational facilities
- Theatre/Living History
- House Boats (liveaboards)
Putting these two sections of the report together will have the
conspiracy theorists running amok. Why couldn’t point 5 of the “joint
objectives” simply read “a well used, well managed, well-maintained and
Happily the report does make specific proposals for each section of
the two canals covered by the report. In each case priorities are
stated; large-scale programmes that impact a particular area are
identified and specific projects are proposed. An example for one area
Figure 2 Sample of Proposals for a specific canal section.
Proposals for programmes which affect the whole or the majority of
sections of the canals are also identified. These are
- A Canal corridor widening and parks integration programme
- Boundary enhancement and screening programme
- Canal Gardens Scheme
- Habitat and landscape enhancement programme
- Interpretation and signage programme
- Canal Arts and Culture Programme
- Animation programme (events on the canal)
- Pedestrian safety programme
- Canal wardening/ranger scheme
In addition to the general programmes above, there are 5 pages of
specific project proposals, most of which are partly costed. Examples of
- Identify feasibility of providing designated houseboat
communities along the canals
- A water based market at Portobello and one in association with
developments at Mountjoy
- Examine the feasibility of developing a corporate waterports
centre within Grand Canal Dock
- Attract the Boat Show to the Dublin Docklands area including on
- Develop secure berthing for visiting boat to the centre and
outskirts of Dublin on both Royal and Grand Canals
- Provide 2 mobile youth outdoor education barges on the canals -
with day training and changing space, dinghies and kayaks. Provide
- Dredge, clear weed, and maintain adequate depths for cruisers
visiting the city from the Shannon or other parts of the canal
- Examine feasibility of installing automated lock gates on the
canals in a way that is sensitive to the heritage of the locks
We have highlighted just a few aspects of the report in this short
review. It is well worth reading and the authors are to be commended. It
is a welcome input to determining the future of Dublin’s waterways.
At the time of going to press, the study is only available on CD from
the Waterways Ireland Visitors Centre at Grand Canal Quay. Tel: +353
(0)1 677 7510 or info[at]waterwaysireland.org . Its open Wednesday –
Sunday, 10am - 6pm.
Review on behalf of Dublin Branch IWAI
21 August 2010