TAXPAYERS in Swindon will not be asked to cough up an extra penny for a canal through the centre of town.

That's the guarantee from council leader Rod Bluh.

He made the pledge after it emerged that a long-debated plan to send a waterway from the bottom of Kingshill, along Westcott Place, and into Faringdon Road, would cost about £50m.

"When you hear £50m it sounds like a lot of money," said Coun Bluh (Con, Dorcan).

"But when you consider £1.5bn is being spent regenerating the town centre it doesn't seem so big.

"That money wouldn't come from council taxpayers.

"There will be no impact on council tax from this because if that were the case the scheme just wouldn't fly.

"We will be looking to fund this through planning gains and regeneration agencies."

The idea of resurrecting a canal in the centre of Swindon had been bandied around for years.

But in January the plan started taking shape as engineering company Halcrow was asked to draw up a feasibility study.

Now it has completed its work and says the canal could be created at a cost of about £50m.

It would also involve ripping up and re-routing gas, phone, electricity and water pipes and cables.

Swindon Council's cabinet will debate the plan at its meeting at the end of October.

Ken Oliver, chairman of the Wiltshire and Berkshire Canal Trust, said: "We are now in a position where we are thinking how can we do this - not are we going to do this.

"It does involve a lot of money but what we are talking about is two per cent of the money being spent regenerating the town centre.

"Fifty million may sound expensive and it would be if it were coming out of my bank account.

"But if we are talking about spending that much money on a project that will be of benefit to Swindon for the next couple of generations, I would say it is money well spent.

"This isn't about boats.

"It is about creating a visitor destination in the centre of Swindon that will attract people to the town."

Coun Bluh said the canal scheme was possible in engineering terms and that it could help relieve flooding pressures.

"This could be the thing that makes the big difference to the way the town centre feels," he said.

"Regeneration is great but it is usually just shops and offices.

"A canal would be different and would make us more of a destination."