Our intention is to outline ways in which Staffordshire County Council, District and Parish Councils and Stoke-on-Trent City Council can support the Canal & River Trust (CRT) in its task of maintaining, and improving canals, as well as providing information about the restoration schemes which might attract Councils’ support as and when appropriate. It aims to identify project areas with the potential for delivery in the medium term. By having projects in a ‘ready to deliver’ form the Councils are in a position to assist in obtaining external funding from Local Enterprise Partnerships, Heritage Lottery Fund and other sources as they become available.
As well as the navigable 154 miles of CRT canals, there are 6 waterways under restoration which make up a further 32 miles. These schemes are at different stages and each has a different pattern of ownership, but, for each one, there is a dedicated restoration organisation of volunteers who enjoy a considerable amount of public support, both locally and nationally. These are Burslem Port Trust, Caldon and Uttoxeter Canals Trust, Lichfield and Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust, Shrewsbury and Newport Canals Trust including the Newport Canal Restoration Community Interest Company, and Stafford Riverway Link.
The reservoirs in the County are Rudyard, Stanley, Knypersley, Belvide, Knighton, Gailey Upper, Gailey Lower and Calf Heath, all owned by CRT; Chasewater, owned by the County Council; Tittesworth and Blithfield, owned by Severn Trent and South Staffs Water respectively. Whilst some of these are well used by the public, more use could be made of the others for leisure purposes.
Canals offer a resource that cuts across policy and departmental areas with potential to fulfil both obvious and subtle rewards. In addition to the water channel and towpaths, the canals provide a unique heritage of buildings, structures such as locks and bridges, and other conservation features. A waterway can stimulate regeneration and bring employment, restore landscapes degraded by heavy industry, bring wildlife to the centre of towns, provide alternative ways to travel to work or school and yet still be a place of quiet beauty. For every £1 spent on waterway restoration, £7 is returned1. Equally importantly, they are nature corridors through towns and the countryside, forming an important route for species to move, especially for invertebrates and plants.
We urge the Staffordshire County Council, the District Councils and Stoke-on-Trent City Council to make a positive declaration to protect, enhance and develop all the waterways in the County, to look at the opportunities they can bring, to share experience and lay out a guide for continued improvement. This will need the help of CRT, the District Authorities, local communities and the voluntary waterway societies and other partners such as Sustrans.
1: Water Adds Value a video produced by IWA/CRT, 2014