Answers supplied November 2007
Tell me about the money:
I hear you now have £11.3m Lottery money. How much restoration can be done for that?
This is part of a £24m package to restore from The Ocean at Stonehouse to Brimscombe Port. This 6 mile section of canal has ten locks and six bridges and contains much heritage and regeneration opportunity. In this Phase 1a, the section from Ryeford Double Lock to Dudbridge will be the first to be completed. Stroud District Council, South West of England Regional Development Agency, European Union, Gloucestershire County Council, British Waterways, The Waterway Trusts and the Cotswold Canals Trust are funding partners.
But surely it has always been the aim to connect from Saul… has this been forgotten?
Far from it, the HLF money includes a sum to purchase the in filled section of canal around the A38 and the motorway. Phase 1b is from Stonehouse to Saul and will cost around £24m. The Partnership has detailed solutions of how to get under the M5, A38 and other challenges along here and will continue to look for sponsorship and funding opportunities to make this happen.
Why is public money being spent on an old canal, when it could be used for public services?
This money comes principally from a different funding stream, the Heritage Lottery Fund, which is dedicated to conserving and increasing access to heritage. It cannot be spent on improvements to public services. The project has £6m of funding from the South West Regional Development Agency and that is being invested in order to encourage economic progress within the area, through tourism, new businesses, jobs, etc. These are very positive outcomes for local people.
I hear that you’ve already got the money. Are you just sitting on it to hold onto the bank interest?
Money could not be drawn down until the funding contracts were completed. This happened in June 07 and in the meantime British Waterways has forward funded the project (£1 million+ to date) to ensure progress can continue.
The money has been granted by HLF but is paid on completion of work. There is no opportunity of holding onto the money to gain bank interest as is sometimes mistakenly thought.
How will the canal get under the A38?
The proposal is to follow the original route and tunnel under the road at the Whitminster roundabout. Bristol Road Lock will be rebuilt east of the Whitminster roundabout to give correct levels.
How will the canal get under the motorway?
Using the crossing under the motorway that already exists for the river. This will involve building a new dedicated channel for the canal alongside the river.
How many miles are in water now?
Almost 5½ miles are in water between Saul Junction and Stroud. There is then almost continuous water for another 2½ miles from Stroud to Chalford. In some places, especially on the summit level of theThames and Severn Canal, water is seasonal due to the rise and fall of the water-table and resulting leaky canal bed. However deep water is extending in such places as Ebley where housing development planning gain has allowed full excavation.
How difficult will it be to re-open the tunnel?
There are two side falls and one roof fall. It is believed that two thirds of the tunnel is in good repair. It isn’t difficult with modern methods and past experience including the repair of Tunnels such as Blisworth in the east midlands. The tunnel is home to bats (protected by law) but there are ways of working around this and preserving their nesting sites as opposed to it being bringing the project to a halt.
Who owns the land?
On the Stroudwater Navigation there are three landowners in the missing mile around the M5 and A38. The rest is owned by The Company of Proprietors of Stroudwater Navigation who have granted SVCC a 999 year lease.
The Thames and Severn Canal is in multi-ownership. Gloucestershire County Council Stroud to Chalford, Bathurst Estate, Cooperative Wholesale Society etc. There are some small ownerships at Chalford and Kempsford.
What about the landowners who do not want to sell?
There were 80 different owners on The Ribble Link. This was completed by amicable negotiation. A good pattern for this waterway.
What about the buildings that have been built on the line?
Other restoration projects have showed that there are ways around buildings, either by taking a physical detour or by purchasing the property to take the canal through its original line.
When will we see something happening?
Work by developers is close to completion at Ebley near the Council offices. Work on Oil Mills Bridge in Ebley and the canal to Ryeford is now underway. Volunteers are carrying out preparation projects along the length of the canals, most recently at Ebley and Gough’s Orchard Lock. They have also been involved with archaeological digs at Ebley.
There has also been a considerable amount of consultation about Capel’s Mill. All this is a crucial part of the project, preparing for the physical restoration work.
Have a look at What’s happening now?
Will the canal link with any of the lakes in the Water Park?
This is outside the immediate phase of the project and has not been considered yet.
Will the canal west of the Junction down to the Severn be restored?
This is not part of the current proposal. The line was merged with the River Frome in 1970's as a flood relief scheme.
Can I take a boat trip anywhere on the canal?
For details of - Cotswold Canals Trust Boat Trips
If I’m close to or on the line of the canal, will I have to move my business?
It is unlikely. Most businesses that will be directly affected have been consulted.
Is there going to be compensation to businesses directly affected?
Compensation might be payable to some whose property is acquired via Compulsory Purchase.
If I am not directly affected by the canal but wish to capitalise upon the project and expand my business, can I do so?
It is anticipated that the restoration of the canal will provide wide ranging economic benefits to many businesses and not just those businesses adjoining the canal. Business support advice is available from Business Link and Stroud Chamber of Commerce. Contacts can be sourced from Stroud District Council. If you wish to expand to new premises and need help or financial support, please contact Rachel Small on 01453 766321.
Will access to my business be affected?
We believe that access will only be an issue during the restoration at Snow Mills/Oil Mills; Brimscombe Port; Canal Ironworks; Wycliffe Industrial Estate and Upper Mills. We believe that apart from the dredging works, most other areas should be unaffected. Businesses will be informed before any work starts that is likely to affect them. If you haven’t already had any contact with the Partnership, please get in touch:
Could I move my business into one of the old mills?
We are currently exploring the issues of ownership around the mills. Contact for our most up-to-date plans
Will canal regeneration improve the property value of my business?
Yes. Since the project was launched, waterside properties have increased in value by 11%. Local estate agents believe that once major work begins, property values will increase significantly.
Any other Questions?
Will the town of Stroud be enhanced by canal regeneration?
Stroud District Council is currently drawing up an Urban Design Framework, which will incorporate the benefits that the canal will bring to the town. Since the canals project has been announced house prices in Ebley and canal areas have already risen in value by 12%. Based on similar regeneration projects, it is indicative of the economic prosperity that the canal should bring.
I have difficulty using the towpaths at present as I’m not as fit as I used to be - will it be easier to use when it’s restored?
Yes – we’re working to Countryside Agency standards for access to open spaces. We’re also working closely with the Stroud Access Forum for their advice on what is best for local people and how it meets local people’s needs.
When is the rest of canal being restored?
Restoration Plans - How restoration will be achieved
What’s most important: wildlife, heritage or people?
The project is a balance between all of the above, looking at each section of canal and deciding which element is the most important in that particular area. For instance, if giving too much access (wide tarmac towpaths) damages the wildlife or archaeology on a section of towpath, an alternative, better access may be signposted with the towpath being left as a simpler, possibly unsurfaced path. There is a Conservation Management Plan which guides how these decisions will be made. It will be the standard handbook for all contractors. Other canal restoration projects have been proven to manage and improve habitats.
What size of craft will be able to navigate the canals?
Stroudwater Canal - 16' wide, 4'6" deep.
Thames and Severn Canal -16' wide to Brimscombe Port. Air draft 8’
Thereafter – 12’ wide & 4’6” deep. Air draft 8’
Will the basin at Wallbridge be brought back into use?
This isn’t determined yet. The canal aims to be a catalyst for development of dis/underused buildings along the canals corridor and the basin could be included in this. It may be that this happens during or following the main restoration project.
Capel’s Mill and Brimscombe Port:
What’s happening at Capel’s Mill?
This is one of the major breaks in the canal in the current phase of work. The former route has been blocked by a landfill tip and a road. The route is not obvious given the impacts on the environment, public access and sense of place. There is also a limited budget which has to be considered if the project is to remain viable. Public consultation has been completed in partnership with a wide range of stakeholders beyond the present Cotswold Canals Partnership.
What will happen at Brimscombe Port?
There are no definite plans at present. Partially funded by South West Regional Development Agency, British Waterways purchased Brimscombe Port including the Port Mill. Outline plans are to reopen as much of the basin as is practicably possible with mixed use development and public access around it.
A lot of consultation work has been carried out by Thrupp Parish Council and the Partnership will be consulting on the needs and designs for Brimscombe. The restoration and regeneration of Brimscombe Port is to be led by Stroud District Council on behalf of the Partnership.