THE dream of a canal running through Swindon town centre has not been dimmed by the recession.

The £75m scheme to run a waterway through Swindon to link up with the national canal network is included in Swindon Council’s draft core strategy – a vision for the town in 2026.

Council leader Rod Bluh said work was still underway to secure funding for the project, but said his administration was still committed to the scheme in principle.

He said: “A canal has huge potential if people could get their minds around it but it is going to cost £75m and the challenge now is to find a way of funding that.”

The project attracted controversy when details first became public last year, but according to the chairman of the Swindon branch of the Wilts and Berks Canal Trust the mood of the public has changed.

Keith Dowdy said: “People coming into our shop in Theatre Square have been quite positive. When they come to us they get the truth and then they understand a lot more about it. A lot of the negative comments we got were based on flawed logic.

“People seemed to be under the impression that this would just be a cul-de-sac of water in the town centre, whereas the canal would link up with the national network.”

Mr Dowdy said a canal would not only be a draw to boaters.

He said: “This is also about cyclists, walkers, families. It would bring wildlife back to the area and it would be a great boom to the economy. An independent report estimated a canal could bring in £8m annually to the local economy.”

Roy Cartwright, 64, a fellow canal enthusiast, said: “If we are going to compete with places like Cabot Circus this is what we need.

“I went out to Gloucester Docks recently and I remember thinking there is nothing to compete with this in Swindon.

“If we don’t do something we will be left behind.”

The council’s proposed route along Westcott Place, Faringdon Road and Fleet Street was given the thumbs up by a Government planning inspector in January.

According to Coun Phil Young, the cabinet member in charge of the project, officers are now investigating how funding could be secured.

“This is the big challenge because obviously there is less funding around at the moment,” he said.

“The canal is an aspiration at the moment and now we have to look at the issue of deliverability.

“I would hope that within the next few months we will be able to report on that.”

More information about the core strategy can be found at a public exhibition in North Swindon Library from noon to 6pm today.