ANY problems in rebuilding a canal through Swindon are far outweighed by the benefits.

That's the message Ken Oliver, of the Wilts and Berks Canal Trust, gave to a packed Civic Trust meeting last night.

People from across the town packed into a meeting room at Heelis, in Kemble Drive, to find out more about the proposed canal plans.

He told the audience that the idea of having a canal in the heart of the town first came about it 1793.

The waterway, which was built by father and son Robert and William Whitworth, was constructed in 1796 and ran from Abingdon, through Swindon and out to Chippenham.

The trust has been busy restoring sections of the canal for many years, and the question of bringing it back through Swindon has proved to be a controversial one.

They are currently working on sections in Wootton Bassett and 3km of new canal has already been agreed at Wichelstowe, the Front Garden development.

Mr Oliver told the meeting putting the canal through the town centre was only logical.

"For a very long time we have always said that going around the outside of Swindon would be no good for the town," said Mr Oliver.

"The benefits and the physical impact of the canal are great.

"We have discussed all sorts of possibilities and I believe this is the best solution.

"The proposed route starts on the canal's original line at Kingshill, flows along Faringdon Road, past the Railway Village and along Fleet Street, where it will end in a canal basin."

The audience listened intently, and many had questions about the route, traffic and bridges, amongst many others, which Mr Oliver was only too happy to answer.

When Mary Ratcliffe of Croft Road asked about the cleanliness of the canal he referred to the Gas Basin, in Birmingham.

"Twenty years ago people would probably have told you not to stay there overnight," he said.

"Now it is a thriving, vibrant area with a wonderful café culture. With the canal in Swindon, I think you will find a different type of eatery coming in, one that is not here now.

"Having looked at all the viable options, I am sure this is the right place for the canal.

"It will give a wow factor to the regeneration of Swindon and be a place for people to come and see, and enjoy."