£8.9m cash flows in to make Stonehouse and Stroud canal towns again after a 70 year break
Stroud and Stonehouse are set to become canal towns once againfollowing a £8.9 million grant to the Cotswold Canals Connected Project – expected to boost the economy by £5.5 million annually
It means that the five miles of canal already restored will be connected to the national inland waterway network at Saul Junction, all courtesy of The National Lottery Heritage Fund.
According to the district council, as well as opening up another 4.5 miles of canal “the funding will see huge benefits in terms of the economy, leisure, community, health, heritage and the environment with 21 hectares of “biodiversity land”and 30,000new trees and shrubs.
It is an investment predicted to generate additional spending of £5.5 million a year in the ‘local economy’ and bringing health benefits estimated at £8 million a year, preserving the canal archives from the 1730s and involving up to 500 extra volunteers.
A partnership led by Stroud District Council and the Cotswold Canals Trust has already restored five miles of canal between Stonehouse and Thrupp, but connecting to Gloucester and Sharpness Canal at Saul means boats can reach Stonehouse and Stroud from the whole of the national inland waterway network
“This is fantastic news,” said Cllr Doina Cornell, leader of Stroud District Council. “I remember when I moved to the district twenty years ago people talking with enthusiasm about this canal project, and I'm so proud now of the council and all our partners who have made this dream a reality.
“The canal very much shaped the district in the past and thanks to this National Lottery funding will now do so in the future.
“I can’t think of any other project which benefits so many people in so many ways – and when outdoor pursuits are so important as we look forward to recovering from the covid pandemic.”
” I would like to pay tribute to Stroud District Council councillors from all sides who committed to take the project on in 2008 and have kept the support going for all these years, as well as to the great team of dedicated council staff.”
Pictures by Gloucestershire photographer Simon Pizzey
The canal, known as the Stroudwater Navigation, was formally abandoned by an Act of Parliament in 1954.
Jim White, chair of Trustees for the Cotswold Canals Trust, said: “This is amazing news. Volunteers have been working for this moment since the Trust was founded in 1972.
“As the project progresses we need many more volunteers to help us and we continue to fundraise.
“This important section of canal restoration greatly helps us to pursue our vision of eventually completing the canal route from the River Severn to the River Thames.
“We can now start planning the restoration of the canal from South Cerney to Lechlade.”
Stuart McLeod, director London & South at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “It will not just preserve the heritage of the area but it will leave a lasting environmental legacy through the creation of vast new areas of biodiversity, including the creation of a wildlife corridor between Stroud and the Severn Vale.”
Work on the stretch between Stonehouse and Saul is expected to be completed by the end of 2023. Work is already underway on Whitminsterroundabout and the new railway bridge at Stonehouse Ocean near St Cyr’s Church.
Major funders for the project are The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Stroud District Council (£2.3m), Cotswold Canals Trust’s members and donors’ contributions (£2.2m), Gloucestershire County Council (£700,000) and the Canal & River Trust (£625,000). Cotswold Canals Trust will continue to fundraise for the remaining £1.2 million needed.
The Cotswold Canals Connected Project is led by Stroud District Council and Cotswold Canals Trust, with many other partners, including the Stroud Valleys Canal Company and the Stroudwater Navigation Archive Charity, Town and Parish Councils, Stroud-based Creative Sustainability, Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, Stroud Valleys Project and Cotswold Boatmobility.
First published October 19.