THE MAJORITY of people in Swindon are against plans to build a canal through the centre of town.

This is the result of a poll by the Adver. We asked 1,000 people in the town centre if they were in favour of the £52m project.

Of those polled only 36.9 per cent (369 people) thought it was a good idea and 63.1 per cent (631 people) were against the proposal.

Roy Cartwright, chairman of the Swindon branch of the Wilts and Berks Canal Trust, refused to be bowed by the negative reaction.

"It still means that a third of people support it," he said.

"A lot of people's response is probably because there has been a lot of negativity in the newspapers about the canal.

"Then when you ask people a yes or no question like this they immediately think of all the negative aspects - it'll cause traffic problems, it'll cost me lots of money.

"I think we need to get across to people that the canal will not cost them anything and that the traffic problems in the centre have to be solved with or without the canal.

"Every time we respond we get people coming back with the same old chestnuts about how it will attract drunks and fill up with shopping trolleys. If you go to Reading or Birmingham do you just find drunks and shopping trolleys?

"I think people need to look at how the canal can be part of the solution to problems facing Swindon town centre - not a cause."

Coun Phil Young (Con, Covingham & Nythe), cabinet member for economic development, regeneration and development, said: "This is a project that will have to find its own funding.

"We will be looking for funding from Government and from grants set aside specifically for waterways.

"This is not a case of prioritising the canal over other issues, such as schools, transport, housing etc."

Coun Fay Howard (Parks), deputy leader of the Labour group, said: "I think the results show that people in Swindon have the same worries as we do about the canal.

"People are more concerned about solutions to the issues in front of them - like rubbish collections and traffic problems.

"People in my ward have expressed concerns about the cost - even the £50,000 for the feasibility survey could have gone on something of immediate importance - like road repairs.

"People have a right to question this project."

To find out more about the canal project visit the Wilts and Berks Canal Trust exhibition in Regent Circus.