Restoration work on the Cotswold Canals will begin in earnest in mid-August, the Cotswold Canals Partnership confirmed today.
The eagerly-awaited digging at Oilmills, Ebley marks the start of major work on the Cotswold Canals. Until now, work had mainly been carried out by volunteers in preparation for the main project.
Work at Oilmills will involve the restoration of a 650-metre length of Canal and the building of a new bridge leading to the Snow Mill and a number of private houses. Bridge works are expected to be completed first, followed by canal excavation work.
“I am delighted that major construction work on the restoration of the Cotswold Canals is about to get underway,” said Roger Hanbury, Chairman of the Cotswold Canals Partnership. “This is a very important step for the Canal Partnership and everyone who has worked tirelessly to promote and support this important regeneration scheme.”
"The commencement of work at Oil Mills perhaps heralds the end of the beginning,” said Cllr Nigel Studdert-Kennedy, Stroud District Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration. “Once again we are pleased to show that hard work and teamwork can deliver. We are delighted that the Canal Project can now demonstrate to its supporters that it really will happen. The Canal team has every right to be pleased with the fruits of its endeavours. This is very good news for the future of Stroud and of the District."
The original hump-backed bridge on the site was removed as part of a road improvement scheme. It will be replaced by a new bridge echoing original designs but able to carry modern traffic.
Lead partner British Waterways has placed the contract with West Midlands-based Morrison Construction, which has a wealth of experience in specialised canal restoration. It is also familiar with the latest habitat conservation and enhancement techniques, coupled with an excellent safety record.
The August start is the result of having to wait for the departure of fledgling birds and also the need to safely re-home resident reptiles, especially slow-worms. The Partnership had originally intended to start work in January, but this was delayed by difficulties in accessing the site. As soon as an exact start date is known, the public and press will be informed.
“This is most encouraging,” said Bruce Hall, Chairman of the Cotswold Canals Trust. “People are really eager to see work on the Canal get started. Our volunteers have done a fantastic job in preparing the way for restoration, but we’re at last going to see full-scale digging and construction.”
This first phase of the Cotswold Canals restoration has been made possible with an £11.9 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). The funding matches contributions from the other partners in the project, including £6 million from the South West Regional Development Agency (SWRDA) and represents almost three quarters of the total funding required to deliver the first major phase of the Canals’ restoration. Total cost of the restoration project is £24 million.