Call to extend canal restoration scheme through Swindon

Swindon Advertiser: PLEA Chris Coyle, right, of the Wilts and Berks Canal Trust   Pictures: JAMES DOUGLAS Buy this photo » PLEA Chris Coyle, right, of the Wilts and Berks Canal Trust Pictures: JAMES DOUGLAS

A LOCAL charity is urging planners to go back to the drawing board and reconsider the regeneration of Swindon town centre.

The Wilts & Berks Canal Trust believes the current vision is “missing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to maximise the impact of a restored waterway.

Forward Swindon is currently consulting on a masterplan which would include bringing the canal back into the town through North Star as far as a basin adjacent to Station Road. Crucially, it omits linking this section to the restored canal at Westleaze.

The trust believes the scheme should be more ambitious and extend the restoration through the entire town so that more residents and businesses can enjoy the benefits of a new wildlife corridor which would attract tourism and employment.

The charity, which recently received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, is now urging local people to take part in the consultation.

The trust’s Chris Coyle said: “We really do appreciate the hard work of everyone involved in preparing the current plans, but they run the risk of missing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make the most of this wonderful waterway.

“Estimates suggest the Swindon economy could benefit from an additional £10m per year if the Wilts & Berks was brought back to life, as well as increased leisure opportunities and improved access to the countryside.

“The current plan to only bring the canal as far as Station Road means many parts of the town might miss out on these tremendous benefits.

“We are urging all of our 2,300 members to rally together and make their views known, and we hope other people will join our campaign too.”

The aim of the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust is to restore the waterway from the Kennet and Avon Canal, near Melksham, to the Thames & Severn Canal, near Cricklade, and the River Thames, near Abingdon, linking Chippenham, Calne, Royal Wootton Bassett and Swindon.

The charity hopes it will provide a multi-million-pound boost to the local economy through increased tourism and employment, as well as providing an amenity for boaters, walkers, cyclists and anglers.

Significant stretches have already been restored across the county – including at Kingshill – and have proved to be a popular attraction.

Chris said: “The social, economic, environmental and cultural benefits of a restored waterway have already been demonstrated across the UK.

“These towns have seen the creation of new wildlife habitats and the establishment of canalside cafes and bars and other facilities.

“We are as keen as everyone else to see Swindon transformed and new jobs created, but we must look at the bigger picture.

“The reluctance to engage with this exciting project seems to revolve around concerns about the cost of the canal without looking at the benefit.

“Integrating a waterway into the regeneration will be a fraction of the cost of the scheme but will contribute a proportion of the additional economic benefit.

“We only have one chance to get this right. Every voice will count.”

Visit www.swindonmasterplan. co.uk or email swindonmasterplan@am-up.com.

Comments (11)

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8:22pm Thu 27 Sep 12

The Patrician says...

These canal people are living in cloud cuckoo land - have they any idea of the complexity and cost of digging a canal through the town - the amount of underground services alone which would need to be moved and the subsequent disruption makes this scheme ridiculous
These canal people are living in cloud cuckoo land - have they any idea of the complexity and cost of digging a canal through the town - the amount of underground services alone which would need to be moved and the subsequent disruption makes this scheme ridiculous The Patrician

11:56pm Thu 27 Sep 12

DGFlexer says...

Swindon Borough Council is one of the many members of the partnership who support and actively invest in restoring the Wilts and Berks Canal because they see the huge advantages it will bring to the area and the Town. So how can they allow this “Forward Swindon” project to effectively kill many of the potential benefits of the canal restoration for Swindon itself? With the Wilts and Berks canal fully restored, Swindon will become the hub of a new southern canal network; linking The Wilts & Berks, The Cotswold canal, the Kennet and Avon and the River Thames. But if this plan is developed, Swindon becomes just the edge of a town, somewhere to moor up and get a few bits from the shop on the way to Abingdon. This proposal will deny £10M of tourist and leisure money to Swindon’s economy and all to save a tiny fraction of the cost of this project. Yet to come back afterwards and correct the mistake will cost many many times the saving envisaged now. This is a classic false economy on every level. Please, if you care about Swindon, if you care about the canal restoration, the wildlife corridor, a better place for our children; oppose this short sighted, small minded, deliberate omission from the proposal; support the implementation of the canal link from Station Road through the town to the already restored section near Kingshill and West Leaze.
Swindon Borough Council is one of the many members of the partnership who support and actively invest in restoring the Wilts and Berks Canal because they see the huge advantages it will bring to the area and the Town. So how can they allow this “Forward Swindon” project to effectively kill many of the potential benefits of the canal restoration for Swindon itself? With the Wilts and Berks canal fully restored, Swindon will become the hub of a new southern canal network; linking The Wilts & Berks, The Cotswold canal, the Kennet and Avon and the River Thames. But if this plan is developed, Swindon becomes just the edge of a town, somewhere to moor up and get a few bits from the shop on the way to Abingdon. This proposal will deny £10M of tourist and leisure money to Swindon’s economy and all to save a tiny fraction of the cost of this project. Yet to come back afterwards and correct the mistake will cost many many times the saving envisaged now. This is a classic false economy on every level. Please, if you care about Swindon, if you care about the canal restoration, the wildlife corridor, a better place for our children; oppose this short sighted, small minded, deliberate omission from the proposal; support the implementation of the canal link from Station Road through the town to the already restored section near Kingshill and West Leaze. DGFlexer

8:07am Fri 28 Sep 12

whitty1 says...

If Swindon council miss this opportunity, it will be a travesty. Not only for the environment - Swindon is already vastly over-developed and this would go some way to restore some sense of nature back to the centre but also for the future of the town.
Canals bring huge benefits to the towns & villages they pass through. Not only with boating people doing their shopping and visiting local attractions, but also bringing families, cyclists, walkers and nature lovers to the area. Canals are beautiful havens of tranquility and to miss this chance to bring something beautiful to Swindon would show an astonishing lack of vision.
I fully support the Canal Trust and all they are trying to achieve. And if you care at all about the future of Swindon and our wildlife then you should petition to get these plans amended too.
If Swindon council miss this opportunity, it will be a travesty. Not only for the environment - Swindon is already vastly over-developed and this would go some way to restore some sense of nature back to the centre but also for the future of the town. Canals bring huge benefits to the towns & villages they pass through. Not only with boating people doing their shopping and visiting local attractions, but also bringing families, cyclists, walkers and nature lovers to the area. Canals are beautiful havens of tranquility and to miss this chance to bring something beautiful to Swindon would show an astonishing lack of vision. I fully support the Canal Trust and all they are trying to achieve. And if you care at all about the future of Swindon and our wildlife then you should petition to get these plans amended too. whitty1

8:29am Fri 28 Sep 12

Keith Vickery says...

I fully agree with whitty1 and would add that a live and functioning canal needs boats on it.

If the link is made from the proposed basin to Westleaze, then boaters will visit Swindon from both directions, potentially doubling the numbers.

More than this other boaters will use Swindon as a stopping off point on through journeys to and from the Bristol end of the Kennet & Avon Canal to the Midlands.

All would be contributing to the local economy.

"You Know it makes sense"
I fully agree with whitty1 and would add that a live and functioning canal needs boats on it. If the link is made from the proposed basin to Westleaze, then boaters will visit Swindon from both directions, potentially doubling the numbers. More than this other boaters will use Swindon as a stopping off point on through journeys to and from the Bristol end of the Kennet & Avon Canal to the Midlands. All would be contributing to the local economy. "You Know it makes sense" Keith Vickery

8:46am Fri 28 Sep 12

RichardR1 says...

A previous estimate of the cost was put at £52 million, so one assumes that would probably have risen to at £60 million.

Swindon just doesn't have that sort of money to waste on what is a pipe dream. Nice as canals are.
A previous estimate of the cost was put at £52 million, so one assumes that would probably have risen to at £60 million. Swindon just doesn't have that sort of money to waste on what is a pipe dream. Nice as canals are. RichardR1

9:00am Fri 28 Sep 12

whitty1 says...

It doesn't have to be a pipe dream. Each section of the proposal talks about the need to provide a safe passage through the town for pedestrians & cyclists. And the need for a "green spine" through the town. The canal ticks both of those boxes. It's not a stand-alone £52 million cost.
It doesn't have to be a pipe dream. Each section of the proposal talks about the need to provide a safe passage through the town for pedestrians & cyclists. And the need for a "green spine" through the town. The canal ticks both of those boxes. It's not a stand-alone £52 million cost. whitty1

9:31am Fri 28 Sep 12

ChippenhamOracle says...

Canal restoration through town/city settings brings massive regeneration, just take a look at the impact has had on the canal area of Birmingham with its buzzing atmosphere and hundreds of new job created.
Those opposing the Swindon scheme seem to have no understanding of how such projects are funded implying they come from the public purse. The bulk of the money would come from developers who stand to build highly successful developments.
Swindon needs to raise its ambitions in these troubled times. The canal development could be the biggest boost to the town in a generation.
Canal restoration through town/city settings brings massive regeneration, just take a look at the impact has had on the canal area of Birmingham with its buzzing atmosphere and hundreds of new job created. Those opposing the Swindon scheme seem to have no understanding of how such projects are funded implying they come from the public purse. The bulk of the money would come from developers who stand to build highly successful developments. Swindon needs to raise its ambitions in these troubled times. The canal development could be the biggest boost to the town in a generation. ChippenhamOracle

9:36am Fri 28 Sep 12

The Real Librarian says...

I love canals.

I wish canals were still used today by industry, especially heavy haulage of bulk, non-perishable goods. It would be better for the environment by using much less fuel. A barge can run all day on a couple of gallons of diesel and carry 50 tonnes. A 44 tonne lorry will use a litre of diesel accelerating to 20 m.p.h.

I've been on canals many times.

I love the Wilts-Berks canal.I've written most of a book sent in an alternative version of history where canals never stopped being used for heavy industry. The story takes place on the Thames Severn, Wilts-Berks and Kennet and Avon.

I wish the canals through Swindon had never been closed off.

So I'm a fan, BUT

The Swindon canals are gone, and ain't coming back.

The cost would inevitably spiral. Engineering projects always cost more than the estimates. It wouldn't stop at £60 million. Five, maybe ten times the cost in the end.

The disruption to the town would be vast. Never mind the possible economic benefits to the town of a few grocery sales, the losses during the construction phase would be titanic. Projects like this always overrun on time as well as cost. It would take longer than it is supposed to and that would add to the damage to retail income. Plus, should they find any interesting archeology, there would be an immediate halt while the site was dug. Delays, delays, delays.


The Patrician is right, the underground infrastructure that would be disrupted would be vast, and that would only be part of the problem.

It would be a dream to have a canal in Swindon, but it would be a nightmare to build one.
I love canals. I wish canals were still used today by industry, especially heavy haulage of bulk, non-perishable goods. It would be better for the environment by using much less fuel. A barge can run all day on a couple of gallons of diesel and carry 50 tonnes. A 44 tonne lorry will use a litre of diesel accelerating to 20 m.p.h. I've been on canals many times. I love the Wilts-Berks canal.I've written most of a book sent in an alternative version of history where canals never stopped being used for heavy industry. The story takes place on the Thames Severn, Wilts-Berks and Kennet and Avon. I wish the canals through Swindon had never been closed off. So I'm a fan, BUT The Swindon canals are gone, and ain't coming back. The cost would inevitably spiral. Engineering projects always cost more than the estimates. It wouldn't stop at £60 million. Five, maybe ten times the cost in the end. The disruption to the town would be vast. Never mind the possible economic benefits to the town of a few grocery sales, the losses during the construction phase would be titanic. Projects like this always overrun on time as well as cost. It would take longer than it is supposed to and that would add to the damage to retail income. Plus, should they find any interesting archeology, there would be an immediate halt while the site was dug. Delays, delays, delays. The Patrician is right, the underground infrastructure that would be disrupted would be vast, and that would only be part of the problem. It would be a dream to have a canal in Swindon, but it would be a nightmare to build one. The Real Librarian

10:59am Fri 28 Sep 12

Al Smith says...

I think we all know the road infrastructure in Swindon is at breaking point. This makes the route up Westcott Place and Faringdon Road a non-starter. Look at the damage the Whalebridge changes have done to businesses in Fleet Street. Instead of reviving the town centre you could end-up harming it.

Perhaps the canal trust need to re-examine using the original route of the canal through Canal Walk which would cause far less traffic disruption and might even be a focus for redevelopment of the whole shopping centre.
I think we all know the road infrastructure in Swindon is at breaking point. This makes the route up Westcott Place and Faringdon Road a non-starter. Look at the damage the Whalebridge changes have done to businesses in Fleet Street. Instead of reviving the town centre you could end-up harming it. Perhaps the canal trust need to re-examine using the original route of the canal through Canal Walk which would cause far less traffic disruption and might even be a focus for redevelopment of the whole shopping centre. Al Smith

11:29pm Fri 28 Sep 12

David Payne9999 says...

I would like to echo the thoughts of 'chippenham oracle'.

The money will come from private developers and will provide a massive source income, and employment, for many years to come. Boatyards, Hire Businesses, Boat builders, Dry docks, etc

Our own 'Melksham Link Project' will be an example of this.

It is essential that it provides a through-route from Melksham to Abingdon.
I would like to echo the thoughts of 'chippenham oracle'. The money will come from private developers and will provide a massive source income, and employment, for many years to come. Boatyards, Hire Businesses, Boat builders, Dry docks, etc Our own 'Melksham Link Project' will be an example of this. It is essential that it provides a through-route from Melksham to Abingdon. David Payne9999

10:19pm Sun 30 Sep 12

itsamess3 says...

The original route for the canal was at the rear of westcott place through cambria bridge and under milton st.
The original route for the canal was at the rear of westcott place through cambria bridge and under milton st. itsamess3

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