£336k boost for Staffordshire canal project
An ambitious project to restore a disused canal in Staffordshire has been given a massive boost after being awarded £336,000.
The grant means that the section of the Lichfield Canal from The Boat Inn on Walsall Road, Lichfield to Barracks Lane just west of the aqueduct over the M6 Toll Road near Brownhills will be open to the public for the first time since the canal was abandoned in the 1950s.
When the work to restore the Heritage Towpath Trail is completed, it is hoped to have the canal's Summerhill section, as it is known, in water within a relatively short time.
Awarded by the Social Investment Business (SIB), the grant enables Lichfield and Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust to purchase two areas of land, construct a new culvert over Crane Brook, Lichfield to replace the one demolished during motorway construction in 2001, remove 60 years of natural growth and lay down a public footpath which will connect across the aqueduct.
A strict condition of the grant is that the funds must be spent in the Government's financial year by March 2015 so feverish activity to tie up the land deals, sign off contracts, confirm adherence to planning regulations have taken place over a very short space of time.
Volunteers have already been at work cutting down trees and clearing scrub from the Walsall Road end of the section, while contractors are clearing the aqueduct and culvert area.
Trust chairman Brian Kingshott said: "These are exciting plans to establish the Heritage Towpath Trail over this whole section.
"It will mean that we can finally show that our aqueduct does have relevance and was not a wasted effort.
"We recognise that only by opening up our canals to the general public can we demonstrate what a valuable asset they can be to everyone.
"More people will be able to see at first hand where the canal actually is and what it can do for everyone and not just a few privileged boaters. An exciting prospect indeed."
The trust's vision is to re-instate the historic Lichfield and Hatherton Canals for the benefit of the whole community.
They believe that the natural wildlife corridor from Huddlesford to Hatherton will provide a valuable amenity for walkers, cyclists, boaters and visitors to use and will bring prosperity to the area.
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