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Powys councillors support growth deal bid for canal restoration

Two prominent members of Powys County Council have pledged their support for the multi-million-pound restoration of the Montgomery Canal.

Cllr James Evans, the council’s portfolio holder for economic development, housing and regulatory services and Cllr Elwyn Vaughan, leader of the council’s Plaid Cymru group, both said they would like to see the canal restoration included in the projects submitted for Mid Wales Growth Deal support.

They advised John Dodwell, Montgomery Canal Partnership chair and Michael Limbrey, Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust chair, to develop a proposal in discussion with the Mid Wales Growth Deal team.

Because the canal restoration is a cross border project involving sections in North Shropshire and North Powys, Cllr Evans told them it could possibly qualify for support jointly from the Mid Wales and Marches Growth Deals.

Mr Dodwell and Mr Limbrey are currently meeting councillors, politicians and potential funding partners on both sides of the border to drum up support for the restoration project.

They are due to meet Powys County Council leader Cllr Rosemarie Harris and Nigel Brinn, corporate director for economy and environment, in March.

Shropshire Council has formed a project board to co-ordinate its support for the canal. Cllr Vaughan suggested that a project board could be established by the Mid Wales Growth Deal should the canal proposal be selected for support.

Following the meeting in Welshpool this week, Cllr Evans said: “I am supportive of the canal restoration project and look forward to a proposal being developed for the Mid Wales Growth Deal.”

Cllr Vaughan: “The canal restoration is an exciting project that has great potential to benefit Montgomeryshire. I look forward to assisting in any way possible to turn all the good ideas into reality.”

Mr Dodwell said since the canal restoration began in 1969, supported by the Prince of Wales, more than half of its 35 miles had been restored. This year marked the 40th anniversary of the opening of the canal’s Prince of Wales section outside Welshpool and it was hoped to complete the restoration to the town within 10 years.

Montgomery Canal Partnership estimated that restoring the canal to Newtown would generate an annual visitor spend of £5 million, create 128 full-time jobs and be the catalyst for the regeneration of the Upper Severn Valley.

The estimated cost of the remaining restoration work in Shropshire is £15m using contractors or £5m using volunteers. In Wales, the restoration would cost £24m with contractors or between £8-10m with volunteers.

During 2018-’19, the estimated value of volunteer labour on restoration work was £56,000. The next big project facing the Partnership is rebuilding School House Bridge, Crickheath in the summer of 2021, with fundraisers having already raised £300,000 towards the £400,000 target.

Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, a derelict length of canal to Crickheath Wharf has been re-watered to extend the section connected to the Llangollen Canal by one and a half miles.