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BW pulls out of Cotswolds restoration

British Waterways announced this morning that it is pulling out of the Cotswold Canals restoration - with potentially grave consequences for the project. It is blaming the decision on the need to find funds to repair the Monmouthshire & Brecon, which breached last year.

BW's statement reads:

British Waterways is today (4th February 2008) announcing its decision to withdraw from the Cotswold Canals Partnership from April 2008.  

The move follows a review of funding commitments for the next financial year and the diversion of significant funds to progress the urgent first phase of a repair programme for the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal in Wales, which is expected to cost in the region of £15 million over four years.

Announcing the news, Robin Evans, Chief Executive said: "We have thought long and hard over this decision and know it will disappoint our partners in the project.  Ultimately, however, we have a finite pot of money and the needs of our existing waterways must take priority. Around 16 miles of the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal is currently closed and will require significant investment from us over the next 18 months as we undertake a massive repair programme to reopen it.  These works are essential for those businesses and communities that depend upon and contribute to the canal and we are committed to getting it up and running in time for the 2009 cruising season."

While the failure of the lottery funding bid for the Cotswold Canals restoration (known as Phase 1B) was a major setback for project [WW note - this refers to the Big Lottery bid to connect to the Gloucester & Sharpness and Saul, not the Heritage Lottery-funded phase 1a], British Waterways remains optimistic that the restoration will be achieved in the future.

"We hope that the £1.5million we have invested in the project to date will help to lay the foundations for the canals’ ultimate restoration and reintegration with the national network,” said Robin Evans.  "In the meantime we will continue and complete the works at Oil Mills, expected at the end of April 2008, and shall work with the partnership to ensure an orderly handover of all the good work that has been achieved thus far so that it can provide maximum benefit to the remaining partners in the project."

The decision will not affect British Waterways’ involvement in other canal restoration projects which include: the Manchester, Bolton & Bury Canal; the Helix project in Grangemouth; the Bow Back Rivers in London; the Liverpool Link and; the Droitwich Canals.

More news as the story develops.

Monday 4 February  | Richard Fairhurst  | 11.23am, Monday 4 February 2008

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