Plans to restore the canal between Stonehouse and Saul have been transformed by Stroud District Council’s decision to invest £3m in the project.
The total cost of restoring the 4 mile length of canal is estimated at around £19m and a bid for funding will be made to the Heritage Lottery Fund in November. The project would join the 6 miles of canal already restored to the national waterway network, giving boats access to Stroud and beyond. A previous bid by the Cotswold Canals Trust in 2015 was unsuccessful, partly due to a lack of funding from partners in the project.
"I hope that our investment will make the difference," said Cllr Steve Lydon, Leader of Stroud District Council. "I’ve been struck by the level of support from the public, who are telling us to get on with it. The canal project has already brought huge environmental, economic and leisure benefits, which will reach their full potential when we connect to the national network."
Restoration of the canal between Stonehouse and Stroud has already attracted private investment of £117m into the canal corridor since 2006. The council and the Homes & Communities Agency are jointly investing a further £3m in Brimscombe Port, turning it into a waterside site ready for redevelopment.
Cllr Martin Whiteside, Leader of the Green group and the ward member for Brimscombe & Thrupp said:
"Making the connection through to Saul Junction would mean that we can get boats into Stroud and then ultimately into Brimscombe Port and beyond. It’s a very exciting prospect."
Jim White, Chairman of the Cotswold Canals Trust said:
"This commitment by Stroud District Council is hugely important both financially and symbolically. We will now be working very hard with the council and other partners to make sure that the next bid for Lottery funding is a winner."
Cllr Ken Tucker, Leader of the Liberal Democrat group on the council said:
“Although our investment transforms the prospects for the canal, the project is always going to be totally dependent on volunteers, who contribute around 15,000 hours per year. They are the ones who really make a difference and we are all very grateful to them.”
In advance of the next funding bid, volunteers have already started on the section between Stonehouse and Saul. Since Christmas, they have already cleared around 200m of channel west of Fromebridge roundabout. With the permission of Ecotricity, other volunteers have carried out an assessment of Westfield Lock, which was filled in during the 1970s. Plans are now being put in place to clear out the lock and begin restoration this year.