Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Running down for Christmas? Maybe

I suppose in a way we are already seeing the run-down to Christmas, but there is still a lot going on. Yesterday we had another meeting with Biffa about the Studley Grange site. We are making slow but steady progress there. The final technical details are being worked out, in conjunction with our consultants WYG and the Environment Agency, and we have prepared a draft application for planning permission. All things being equal we hope to be able to submit it in January. We still have some work to do on environmental studies and flood risk assessments which will be necessary for planning permission, but that work should not hold us up. A presentation to the Board of Biffa is being pencilled in for the Spring. If all goes well, we might be able to start putting diggers in the ground in the late Summer. Could all members please cross their fingers for us! This week we have another meeting with Waitrose, and their contractors who are building the new store at Wichelstowe. The time available for any work is very tight as the store will open at Easter, but they are keen to help, and Swindon Borough Council (who own the land and therefore have to be in agreement) are doing whatever they can to help as well. At the Partnership meeting on Thursday there was a wide-ranging discussion on the best way to make significant progress, in a reasonable timescale. There were no conclusions, but we will have to carry the debate forward. I was pleased to accompany our new Chairman designate to the meeting. We are fortunate that General Sir John Wilsey GCB, CBE, DL has stepped forward to lead the Trust, into even more busy and exciting times. His appointment will need to be made formally by Council of Management in January - hence the 'designate' tag. We are sure that the Trust will benefit from his wide experience. The Dauntsey Lock Canal Centre is a complicated situation, so we are having to balance lots of different factors. We continue to have discussions with Wadworth about buying the Peterborough Arms. We have accepted the offer from SIB of a grant to help with the preparation of a Feasibility Study and Business Plan for the whole centre. To all those who have given donations and made pledges for loans, could we ask for your patience; we are working hard to move the whole position on, and we will come back to you when we have more certainty about the details. However the Trustees are very mindful of all the uncertainties, and will not commit to the project unless satisfied that it is in the best interests of the Trust. Since this will be the last blog before Christmas, may I wish you all on behalf of the Trust and the Trustees a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Chris Coyle

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

'Tis the season to be jolly ( mostly!)

The new Trust Chairman (designate) Sir John Wilsey met with Kath Chris & myself recently to familiarise himslf with some of the many aspects of the Wilts & Berks project. We are looking forward to working with him and the wealth of knowledge he will bring from his distinguished military career. I was very pleased to be invited to the Canal & River Trust Waterways Partnership's first annual meeting last week to hear about some of the exciting initiatives taking place on the Kennet & Avon Canal. There was an opportunity to meet CRT's new Chief Executive Richard Parry and I am pleased to report much interest in the Wilts & Berks Melksham Link project. In Swindon great efforts by the Dragonfly boat trip team where the Santa Cruises continue to be fully booked ferrying children to see Father Christmas. Meanwhile discussions continue with the Swindon BC Wichelstowe project team about how the two sections of canal at East Wichel and Westleaze can be connected at the earliest opportunity. Elsewhere not so good news as the developers at Grove Airfield have been granted planning consent for 2500 homes without contributing a penny to the canal restoration on the southern perimeter of the site. This is despite the Local Authority policy and considerable lobbying from the project. We are considering further options. Finally to thank the continuing support of many who have offered to be involved financially or otherwise with the Dauntsey Lock Visitor Centre project. It has been another amazing response and I sincerely thank you. Some crucial(and difficult)decisions will need to be made shortly on this project. The quarterly gathering of members of the Wiltshire Swindon & Oxfordshire Canal Partnership takes place this week in Royal Wootton Bassett and we look forward to discussing all aspects of the restoration with the Partners. Ken Oliver

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

A week for more good news...

We had a busy well attended Council of Management meeting last evening with much to discuss. We heard from Tim Pyatt that the bid to Locality for a Feasibility Grant for the Dauntsey Lock Canal Centre project has succeeded and the Trust has been granted £30,000. This will help with legal fees, architect’s plans, researching the business plan, project management, surveys and more. Pledges for the loans are still coming in and negotiations with the owners for the purchase of the Peterborough Arms are continuing. Sadly, it was the last Council meeting for Mel and George who are stepping down from their Director roles due to time pressures. We shall miss them. Good news on the slipway at Melksham – the application for funding from Viridor was successful and work will be able to start in a few weeks. Planning for the Melksham River Festival next September continues with regular meetings being held. There is a new Waitrose store being built at Wichelstowe and the developers Midas Construction have contacted the Trust to ask if they can do anything for us under the Considerate Constructors Scheme. We are urgently holding meetings to discuss. In addition, Waitrose themselves have offered some help – possibly with wild flowers or other planting and/or bat conservation measures. All projects have to be completed by Easter 2014 when the store opens. Two more small bids have just been submitted, one to Heritage Lottery Fund for the Sharing Heritage programme. If successful, this will fund some educational events at Pewsham Locks and Chippenham Museum next year to highlight the history of the canal. MCC also submitted one to Chippenham Area Board for some more bank stabilisation by way of sand bag walls between the meadow and the winding hole. This is needed so that the path can be improved and the canal will be a better depth for the work boat when it is launched next year. And finally...... good news from Crappers’ landfill site – they have been exceptionally busy lately and the funding that they regularly give the Trust is much more this year. Many thanks to them for all their support. Kath Hatton

Monday, 18 November 2013

Appeals for Your Help- An Amazing Response

You, the members of the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust, never cease to amaze me. We came to you for help with buying the land at Bowd's Lane / Seven Locks, and you responded with great generosity and speed. Then we asked for donations for the Dauntsey Lock Canal Centre, and a very worthwhile sum has been given. And then we asked for pledges for a loan scheme to buy the pub. Even without knowing all the details, you have responded magnificently. I am very confident that we will be able to raise the sum we need, if negotiations are successfully concluded. We are working very hard on finalising the details of the scheme; it takes a bit of time - more than I would have liked - but we need to make sure we get all the legal aspects right. In the meantime, we have had an initial meeting with Wadworth, the current owners, and they listened carefully to our proposals and agreed to consider them. The business plan for the canal centre is being worked on. Again, we want to make sure we get this right, and as professional as we can make it, so Tim and Lynne are spending lots of time on it, and we are engaging outside expert help as necessary. Away from that there is a lot going on - too much to list. I am sure that Tim Pyatt would want me to remind you that we are intending to run the Easter Sponsored Walk again, and ask you to put at least half a day aside in your diaries to walk part of the route or to help. On Saturday we attended the Open Day organised by the East Wichel Residents Association. A great bunch of people, very proud of their new community, and of their new canal, and very willing to help us in the task of looking after it. We are looking forward to working with them. Chris Coyle

Monday, 11 November 2013

November News

A busy week ahead for the team with a number of Trust group meetings, including the work party organisers who are hearing about the use of plastic piling tonight . The Trust's engineering and finance and administration committees are also meeting this week. There is much concentration on the Dauntsey Lock Visitor Centre project following the launch last week of a further fundraising initiative to invite members and others to consider a loan scheme. Discussions continue with the owners of the Peterborough Arms and the adjacent canal. Not to be overlooked is a significant landmark last Friday (8th November) when the Trust officially took on the responsibilities as a navigation authority for the canal at East Wichel in Swindon. Although completed there are still a number of unresolved issues including water supply for this section of the waterway. At Pewsham Locks continuing ecological issues are delaying planning consent. The project team intend to submit a second application to speed the process to include parts of the site that will not be subject to further surveys. Please contact me if you need any further information about the Wilts & Berks project

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Kath's Halloween News

This is shaping up to be a fairly good week. Paul Lenaerts and I have just collected a cheque for £400 from Melksham Town Council which will go towards new interpretation boards by the river. Thank you Melksham for your support. Whilst there, a lady told me that the Melksham Brownie pack have chosen the Wilts & Berks as their charity for the year and are collecting their pennies for us. Apparently the Brownies chose it themselves.  I am going to find someone to do a short talk for them.
Donations are coming in steadily for the Dauntsey Lock Canal Centre Fund and the total received so far is now over £13,000. Tim & Lynne are continuing to work on the project and we are waiting to hear about a feasibility grant that has been applied for.
One of our partners, Swindon Borough Council, has offered £15,000 as a contribution towards the  piling and repair work that is being carried out at Westleaze and Rushey Platt.  This is very welcome support.  Also in Swindon,  a date has been set for the Canal Trust to take over responsibility for  the new Wichelstowe section and it looks as if there will be a group of volunteers amongst the new residents to help with the maintenance.
The winning tickets of the Land Fund draw were picked out at the AGM and I will shortly put a list on the website. Cheques will be going out to winners soon.  Profits from the draw will be over £4000.
We heard today that the bid to Viridor for funding for the slipway at Melksham has been processed and will be put before the Steering Committee on 20th November. Keep your fingers crossed!

Kath Hatton

Friday, 25 October 2013

Chris Coyles look back at the week

After all the effort of the AGM, this week has been about catching up, and trying to move things forward again.  And by the way, thanks to everyone who came and made the AGM successful.   You can see one or two extracts on the website, and I hope to put the draft Minutes up shortly.
The most urgent thing has been to try to keep the momentum going on the Dauntsey Lock Canal Centre.  Tim Pyatt and Lynne are working very hard on putting together the necessary plans, and other documentation.  The funding for this is very important, and some helpful suggestions were made at the AGM.  We are exploring a number of options, but in the meantime any donations would be very welcome.  I hope to come back to you all shortly with specific news on this.
In an update talk at the AGM I mentioned almost a dozen projects in progress, and some of those have moved on this week.  Swindon BC are keen for us to over responsibility for the Wichelstowe stretch.  The Wichelstowe Community Residents Association are willing to help in this, and we have agreed to attend their open day on Saturday 16th November.  We have also arranged a meeting with Swindon BC to carry forward the discussions on the Wichelstowe canal link, to join the two sections in water.
Meanwhile, Ken Oliver and Paul Lenaerts have been busy down on the Melksham Link., and an application for funding for the new slipway at Melksham has been submitted.
Do let us know what you think of this way of communicating what is happening, the kinds of topics you would like us to cover, and how often you think we should put something out.
Chris Coyle

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

New Blog Wilts & Berks Canal

Hi & welcome!
This is a new blog which I hope will keep  you up to date  up  with progress on the restoration of the Wilts & Berks Canal .
It was good to meet many members of the Trust on Saturday at the AGM. If you were there I hope you had the opportunity   to  look at the new canal. . You will have noticed that the water level is somewhat below  normal at present . Swindon Borough Council are about to hand over operation of this section of the canal and as part of the planned early  works  the Trust's engineering  team are intending to address this issue as a priority.
This week I have been working on further plans  to attract funding for the Melksham Link  and on Thursday I will be working with Project Manager Paul Lenaerts to plan the scheduling of the many tasks that still need to be carried.
Today I took part  in the weekly conference call with Kath Hatton & Chris Coyle. This new blog is the result  of our resolve to make it easier for anyone who is interested to  find out what is happening with the very fast moving  Wilts & Berks project. The Dauntsey Lock Canal Centre  featured heavily  in todays discussion. It is very encouraging to see over £6000  already donated.
Tomorrow is the deadline for a funding request to build the new slipway at Melksham . Martin Stubbs  has been collating a huge amount of information . Wednesday is also the next meeting to progress negotiations on access to the canal at Dauntsey.

I would be very interested to  know your reaction to this blog and what other information you might like to see. Email

Ken Oliver