Barrow Blueway Placemaking Plan

Location: Barrow Blueway, County Kildare and County Laois

Country: Ireland

Client: County Kildare LEADER Partnership, Waterways Ireland

Services Provided: Mobility (Transport)

The Barrow Blueway is a 46km multi-use shared leisure route running alongside the Barrow Line of the Grand Canal between Athy and Robertstown in Ireland. The route connects with towns and villages and is a popular local community asset and growing domestic and international tourist attraction for those seeking ‘slow tourism’, or an immersive, slower-paced and more meaningful experience of a place.

Meinhardt was engaged to develop the Barrow Blueway Placemaking Plan (BBPP), which sets out a series of programmed and indicatively costed actions to maximise the success of the Barrow Blueway as a local, national and international attraction. These actions consider wayfinding, access, trip planning, activation, services, and activities for land- and water-based users. A key element of the Placemaking Plan was identifying actions necessary to obtain formal Blueway Accreditation from Blueways Ireland and building on existing reporting, planning, recommendations, and initiatives.

As part of the baseline analysis stage of the project, the Meinhardt team spent four days on site in July 2022; walking, cycling, and surveying the site using a bespoke app developed by Meinhardt’s GIS and Informatics team. The app allowed us to identify assets, issues, and opportunities along the Blueway, supported by site photos, which were geo-located within ArcGIS mapping to allow for spatial analysis and identification of opportunities and gaps back in the office.

In addition to time spent on site, the development of the BBPP was informed by stakeholder engagement, review and consideration of background material, desktop analysis, an audit of the route, and detailed gaps analysis. Meinhardt developed a toolkit for development by defining the various nodes along the Barrow Blueway, along with the characteristics and features they required to meet user needs and priorities. The toolkit was aligned to Blueway Accreditation criteria and Barrow Blueway aspirations. An audit of 24 nodes along the route (regional hubs, secondary hubs, local gateways, local nodes, and waypoints) was undertaken against the features included in the toolkit to identify compliance, gaps, and opportunities.