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