BATS, snails, mussels, salmon and crayfish are hindering works planned for the Convent Bridge in Mountmellick.
Ciara Flynn, district consultant officer of the National Parks and Wildlife Services cautioned Mountmellick councillors to carry out an ecology study of the area before any work starts.
A committee in the town had drawn up plans to clean around the bridge and also intended to rock armour the base of the structure.
She said the River Owenass, which flows beneath the bridge, has an abundance of flora and fauna.
She mentioned such creatures as freshwater crayfish, salmon, lamprey, marsh snails, otters and pearl mussels living off the flora along the riverbank.
She also said Daubenton's bats, commonly known as water bats, have also been seen skimming the waters and may live in the crevices under the bridge.
She said the plans by the local group as they stand at present would not get approval to proceed.
Cllr Bobby Delaney was none to happy with the news. “There’s a lot of questions being asked why we can’t do the work. The way it is at the moment it’s just weeds, weeds, weeds. It looks appalling. We want to change the banks in that area. Ger Lynch (a member of the local committee) is our expert in the fishing area. We have plans drawn up. All we want to do is to clean up that area.”
Cathaoirleach of the council Cllr Marc Connolly said the bridge at Smithsfield had rock armour but Ms Flynn said that work was done without any consultation with her office. “The maintenance programme for the riverbank is not an issue. The issue is with rock armouring the banks,” she said.
Cllr Helen Hanson said the main concern of the committee was the appearance around the bridge. “Money is sitting there for the work and we’re anxious to carry out the improvement works. We’re only talking about a small section,” she said.
Ms Flynn asked: “Has the bridge ever been surveyed for bats?” Cllr Hanson said: “This thing is bigger than us.”
Cllr Delaney said: “People are coming to us asking us why can’t we do something about the bridge.” Ms Flynn said: “You could plant a few trees and carry out remedial work.”
Cllr Gormley said: “We never intended to meddle with the bridge. It’s very unsightly and embarrassing coming into town. I can’t see any problem lighting up the bridge.”
Ms Flynn said the lighting would need to be directed away from the bridge so as not to disturb the bats. She also cautioned: “If you don’t have vegetation on the river, bats wouldn’t get insects.”
Cllr Hanson proposed the committee should get together with Ms Flynn to discuss what can and can’t be done. “We haven’t moved one inch on this in two years. We should try to move this on.”
© Laois Nationalist