12 November 2020

Canal Trust Awarde Feasibility Funding

The Wilts & Berks Canal Trust has a grand ambition. And that’s the restoration of the Wilts & Berks canal to link the English northern and southern waterway systems. But a cloud of uncertainty has, for many years, cast a shadow over this dream. The cause of this uncertainty? The obtaining of a crossing across the M4. But rejoice! The cloud is on the verge of lifting. For the canal trust is awarded feasibility funding.

Highways England, the company responsible for England’s motorways and major A roads, has awarded over £42,000 towards the Trust’s feasibility studies. The money comes via its Environment and wellbeing fund. This fund is one of four standalone – or designated – funds which the organisation uses to support certain initiatives. That’s the sort of initiatives that deliver lasting benefits for:

1. Road users
2. The environment and …
3. … communities across England.

Gordon Olson, Chief Executive of the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust, said: “We’re grateful to Highways England for their generous award. We look forward to working in partnership to deliver this important feasibility study.

“The M4 is the biggest barrier to a full restoration of the canal and linking England’s northern and southern waterways networks. So the results could be the key to unlocking the potential of the entire project.

Canal Trust Awarded Feasibility Funding - getting the canal across the M4
Hoped for canal crossing over the M4 motorway

Short term result

“In the short term it would allow us to connect the existing stretch in the Wichelstowe housing development to the north of the motorway. That stretch is currently under restoration as far as the M4. With the line towards Royal Wootton Bassett to the south, such restoration would more than double the length of canal in water in Swindon and provide a valuable new amenity for the local community.

Longer term

“In the longer term we hope it would also help to show the benefits of restoration to other towns along the historic route. Such towns as Melksham, Chippenham, Calne, Cricklade and Wantage thus attracting new funding to finally start connecting up all the stretches.

“The Wilts & Berks Canal, with its towpath and blue-green corridor, could at length provide an important new source of local employment, tourism and recreation. What’s more it would establish vital new habitats for local wildlife.”

Highways England Project Manager Ian Cole said: “We’re delighted to support the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust with funding to scope out this exciting waterways project.

“The long-term initiative to restore the canal could further realise a great walking and cycling route and environmental improvements. All of which will attract more visitors to the area, and so help the local economy.

“We’re investing in the environment and communities surrounding our road network, as well as the people travelling and working on it, to make a positive difference to people’s lives. Our aim is to address social and environmental issues and add real value to society.”

Championing the canal

It’s so great to hear some positive news like this about the canal. It’s a Swindon feature that I’ve highlighted both in Secret Swindon and in my new publication – Swindon: A Born Again Swindonian’s Guide. And, of course, on this blog:

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