Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust (BW 44)


  This Trust is concerned that cuts in funding for British Waterways could lead to the inability to maintain the Montgomery Canal, putting at risk its special ecological features, its listed buildings, the opportunity for economic regeneration, and an amenity used extensively by local residents and visitors.

  1.  Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust is a charity which promotes the restoration and development of the Montgomery Canal. The Trust was formed in 1980 and its members include Shropshire County Council, Powys County Council, Oswestry Borough Council, North Shropshire District Council, the Prince's Trust, Shropshire and Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trusts, Inland Waterways Association, Shropshire Union Canal Society and Waterway Recovery Group.

  2.  The Montgomery Canal runs from Welsh Frankton near Ellesmere in Shropshire through to Welshpool to Newtown in Powys. It was abandoned in 1936 and has been under restoration since 1969: the towpath is open throughout the 35-mile length of the canal and half the canal has now been restored to navigation.

  3.  The Montgomery Canal has over 120 listed structures, much of it is designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest and in Powys it is designated as a Special Area of Conservation under the European Habitats Directive.

  4.  In February 2006 a Management Strategy for the canal was launched at the House of Commons and the Welsh Assembly. The Strategy recognises the unique value of the built and natural environment of the canal and the opportunities for economic regeneration in the borderland area which suffered greatly from the foot-and-month epidemic and the subsequent decline in agriculture.

  5.  The canal is owned by British Waterways and restoration has been undertaken in partnership with British Waterways with whom the Trust and the other partners in restoration have an excellent relationship. British Waterways in turn have been very supportive in the way anticipated in "Waterways for Tomorrow".

  6.  We are greatly concerned about the cuts in funding for British Waterways. In its present state, the Montgomery Canal is very valuable: the isolated restored length, which is home to the Habitats Directive protected species, is little used by boats. It needs regular maintenance to protect its integrity—in particular to prevent breaches which could damage property in Welshpool and the countryside; and to prevent the weed and silt from obstructing navigation and water flow—which in turn would lead to less use (and even less income) and potential damage to its ecology.

  7.  Although this length of the canal is not greatly used for navigation, it is used by two boats for the handicapped (the first on the network), and is extensively used by walkers (The Strategy Summary says, "Many more people use the canal on foot than ever will by boat and the restoration must meet those needs and develop opportunities ... Current levels of use by walkers vary, with up to 1,500 per week in Welshpool. Experience of other restoration schemes indicates that this could increase by 50-100% following restoration"). It is also available for fishing and canoeing and is a feature in Welshpool and a factor in the development of waterside facilities (The Strategy summary says, "Standard calculations indicate the creation of around 100-120 long-term jobs from Phase 1 restoration, but could increase to 250-300 with associated developments. The emphasis on green tourism, increased walking etc means that the numbers of jobs created are the same as in previous schemes with unrestricted navigation. Additional jobs would be created during the construction phases.")

  8.  Structural damage to the canal would put all this at risk. It goes without saying that many of these activities do not contribute much to British Waterways' income, but they do provide considerable value to the community.

  9.  In a situation where British Waterway could be faced with other demands on its funds—particularly in the event of another breach on the Llangollen Canal which is used for water supply to Cheshire and is extensively used for boating holidays, supporting many businesses—we fear that with reducing funds British Waterway could find itself unable to continue to support the Montgomery Canal, which would put at risk all that has been achieved so far, and prejudice the greater benefits of the fully restored canal.

Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust

January 2007

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