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Accolade for canal’s inspiring volunteers
8:30am Wednesday 19th September 2012 in News
THE restoration of Swindon’s former canal will transform the town centre and benefit the thousands that live here, but help is needed to make it happen, says the trust pioneering the project.
The Wilts and Berks Canal Trust, will receive a Queen’s Award on Friday in recognition of its outstanding voluntary work in the community. Currently it has 334 volunteers in Swindon.
But company secretary Chris Coyle and Swindon branch secretary Mike Lang say they need 1,000 volunteers in the town to enable their plans to become a reality within the next five years.
Mike, who was born in Swindon alongside the former waterway, said: “We’d like more volunteers in Swindon.
“For an organisation like this, which is to be of such benefit to the town, we could definitely have more active volunteers and we can make use of any skill whether it is art, administration, banking, engineering, construction, anyone can volunteer.
“But to get more volunteers we need to change people’s perception of what the canal would be like and the enormous benefits it could bring.
“In Devizes, the canal alone brings in £10m a year to the town and has created 800 jobs.
“It would be nice to be able to tick 1,000 jobs off in Swindon that are all associated with the canal.”
The trust has ambitious plans for the restoration of the canal through Swindon and believe the town is integral to their plans.
“Swindon is not a by-way, we don’t want it to be a dead end, we want it to be the hub of this cruising network, it would become the focus for activities,” said Chris.
“It is the most ambitious canal restoration that has ever been undertaken but all the plans we have had for other towns have all happened, in towns like Huddersfield, Birmingham, Banbury, the plans have always eventually been achieved and the towns have been completely transformed.
“The time scale depends on the overall development of Swindon - we are talking about this being part of the regeneration of the town centre.
“So if the idea is that the town will be regenerated within the next five years then the canal could happen within the next five years, but if it is going to take 15 years, then it could take us longer.
“When it is complete it will provide facilities for everybody, not just canal boats, but also anglers, canoers, walkers, runners, and it will be there for future generations.”
On Friday, the trust will be presented with a Queen’s Award by the Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire Sarah Troughton on board the narrowboat Dragonfly.
Chris said: “It is public recognition of an astonishingly high level and we were absolutely astonished to hear the news.
“It is not just recognition of our existing volunteers, but it is recognition of all our past volunteers.”