THE town’s newest section of canal is close to completion and has already been recognised in a nationwide competition.
The 1km stretch of canal at East Wichel is set to be officially opened in the autumn, but the project has already received a commended in the partnership category and runner up in Masterplanning in the Waterways Renaissance Awards, which took place in Birmingham on May 25.
A partnership has been helping to restore the canal, including Wiltshire Council, Swindon Council, the Wilts and Berks Canal Trust and Arup and BAM Nuttall, which has built the waterway.
Wiltshire Council Partnership Canal Officer Ken Oliver said: “It was about 10 years ago that we talked about the possibility of a canal in Wichelstowe and it has taken between 18 months to two years to build, so it has been a big project.
“It is Britain’s newest canalside residency and it is all about bringing part of the countryside in to the middle of Swindon.
“We have spoken to residents and they are all very pleased – the canal itself hasn’t been very accessible while the construction has been going on but when it is all opened up in the autumn time there is going to be all sorts going on.
“Hopefully we will be able to hold an event like the one at Westleaze with the boat trips.”
Developer Barratt Homes has marked the progress of the project by showcasing its new canaside homes, which form a key part of the new ‘green’ housing and business areas in Wichelstowe.
Wilts and Berks Canal Trust chairman John Laverick said: “Projects of this magnitude take years to plan and we have been working with Swindon Council to ensure this new section of waterway will bring maximum benefit for members of the community at Wichelstowe.
“We’re delighted to be working with Barratt Homes to highlight Wichelstowe as Britain’s newest canal side village.”
As well as being a focal point for the community, the canal will provide routes for walkers and cyclists and make an environment for wildlife such as herons, little egrets and kingfishers.
When Wichelstowe is completed, more than 4km of canal will be restored or newly constructed. For information on the Wilts and Berks Canal Trust, visit www.wbct.org.uk.