Kilkenny County Council is mulling over a potential €100,000 investment in the development of the idyllic Poulanassy Waterfall site (just outside Mullinavat) as a visitor and leisure amenity.
The proposal, which was raised at the October meeting of the Piltown Electoral District in Ferrybank, would rejuvenate the popular location, and lead to considerable improvements in terms of public access and car parking.
Situated 200 metres off a public road, a mile or so outside Mullinavat, the waterfall has been a popular haunt for swimmers for decades.
However, as Area Engineer Ian Gardner told local Councillors, the path towards the fall nowadays is no better than “a dirt track down a steep embankment”, a hardly ideal state of affairs from a safety perspective.
At present, local landowners are responsible for it from an insurance perspective, which prompted them to seek the right of way extinguished there, but the Council, said Mr Gardner, had agreed to take it over.
“But then Irish Public Bodies put a whole host of conditions for us to take it over and for them to insure it.”
He continued: “The two main issues? One: parking on the public road. The road itself is barely wide enough for two-way traffic and we’ve counted up to 30 vehicles being parked on the road in the height of the summer on a nice day, so there’s nowhere safe for those to park. And the second thing is the access down to it; it’s quite steep, it’s a dirt track so it’s not safe, and Irish Public Bodies want us to sort out both issues.”
With that in mind, Kilkenny County Council has prepared a preliminary plan, which would provide a car park on a quarter-acre site adjacent the off-road access, which would accommodate just over 30 spaces for cars.
The Council would also improve the access leading to the waterfall, including a new surface, in the event of agreement being reached.
Ian Gardner added: “We’ve been in negotiations with the landowners for about 18 months at this stage and we weren’t really getting too far, but we had another go at it lately…we made them an offer of €4,000 (for the quarter acre site) but they came back us and said it wasn’t acceptable; they highlighted the fact that they’d have to pay 35 per cent in Capital Gains Tax on anything we give them and they were looking for €20,000, which we felt was a bit steep. So that’s where we’re at, at the moment, but I suspect it will end up being closer to €20,000 than €4,000 if we’re going to get a deal, but we’re trying to buy this by agreement as a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) would end up costing us a lot more.”
The landowners are also seeking the Council to cover any legal costs that may arise from this potential deal, said Mr Gardner.
As for funding the entire scheme, Ian Gardner added: “you’re talking about a pretty big job which would involve significant earth works and off the top of my head, I wouldn’t see too much change out of €100,000 if we take this on.”
Cllr Melissa O’Neill (SF) said the site “was a beautiful spot and would definitely be worth the investment,” with District Chair Pat Dunphy (FG) suggesting the works were clearly merited “on health and safety grounds alone”.
Cllr Dunphy added: “In this economic climate, we have to give an investment of this kind a serious level of thought and explore this a lot further. We have a lot of worthwhile projects that merit our consideration and this is undoubtedly one of them.”
Councillors supported Mr Gardner’s further discussions with local landowners in the hope of striking as prudent a deal as possible.