Thursday, 30 January 2014

Water water everywhere

You will have already seen from Kath’s blog last week that 2014 has got off to busy start and I am pleased to say that the pace continues. This week the project has lodged another major planning application with Wiltshire Council for restoration of the canal at Studley Grange Royal Wootton Bassett. The majority of this section is alongside the landfill site operated by Biffa Waste Ltd. The plan is to use the material that has infilled the canal for many years (subject to suitability) as part of the landscaping scheme on the now closed adjacent landfill site. The Trust’s Council of Management met on Tuesday and made some important strategic decisions. Directors agreed to enter into a contract (at no cost to the Trust) to commission a Masterplan for restoration. If suitable sponsorship can be found this work will be carried out over the next 12 months. We were sad to hear that the new Chairman designate Sir John Wilsey has been diagnosed with cancer and in order to accommodate the treatment but not to lose his valuable connections and experience, it was decided to appoint him to be a Vice-President for the time being. We wish him a speedy recovery. The directors have also decided to appoint a retained consultant ecologist(s) to advise on plans for restorations. The Dauntsey Lock Visitor centre project was discussed - the current feasibility study is continuing and negotiations with the current owners of the Peterborough Arms are also still in progress. The second application for Pewsham Locks (ref 13/06760/FUL) has now been registered - this should allow an earlier start on Top Lock and cottage than the application for the whole site, which is awaiting further ecological studies. The Seven Locks project team met this week and are currently looking at the scope and technical details for a revised planning application following the Trust’s purchase of the site. Work started this week on the new slipway at Melksham which will allow safe access to the river adjacent to the canoe club. We made a presentation to the East Wichel Community Association about our plans for the Wichelstowe area. The community is very supportive of the canal, and is helping already with our maintenance tasks. We also made some useful contacts with the management of the new Waitrose store which will be opening in April. The wet weather over Christmas thankfully caused only one major engineering problem - a collapsed culvert near Pewsham Locks- remedial works have been put in place to prevent any further damage until a proper assessment can be made and a repair made. Ken Oliver

Monday, 20 January 2014

A rather belated New Year Blog!

Good news to start 2014! Chippenham Area Board has voted to award a grant of £4849 to Melksham, Calne and Chippenham branch for bank stabilisation at Pewsham. This will enable the branch to bring the water levels up and will ensure stable banks and towpath in the section just north of Double Bridge. It is hoped that the restored work boat Boswell will be launched at Pewsham later this year. And there is more.... .... planning permission has been granted for the Templars Firs extension project at Royal Wootton Bassett. Completion of this project will extend the canal from its current terminus west to Marlborough Road through the site where the old Depot buildings are now. This will give a good length of canal in water – just right for a new trip boat! Maybe that’s a task that the new Manager of Boats, Mike Lang, will take on? Speaking of boats – plans for the River Festival at Melksham on September 6th and 7th are taking shape. Ian Simpson, a member from Keevil, is heading up the team, with Paul Lenaerts in support. Melksham Town Council who are experienced at running events such as the Food Festival and Party in the Park are helping to source local traders. It is hoped that there will be trail boats and some steam boats in attendance. It should help to promote the Melksham Link project as well as commemorating our 100 year anniversary of abandonment. At Wichelstowe, we are talking to Swindon Borough Council about joining up the new section of the canal with the old route – hopefully this process will start later this year. There are a lot of possibilities in Swindon for extending the canal and towpath and I hope the special open meeting planned for 8th February at East Wichel Community Hall will be well supported and that more Swindon members will come forward to get involved and re-invigorate the branch. What’s happening at the Peterborough Arms? No definite news yet, we are still negotiating with Wadworth and are carrying on with the feasibility work for which we have had a grant of £30K from Locality. We continue to receive some donations and pledges and we are grateful to everyone who has contributed. Happy New Year everyone -I believe 2014 will be a great year for the Trust. Kath Hatton