|Volume 6, Number 12 - Autumn/Winter 2008-09|
Notes from the Chair
It seems like no time since I put pen to paper for the last issue of Cuttings, and in truth things have been reasonably quiet as we pass through Autumn into Winter.
The new bridge at Spike Island remains on course for installation in the next financial year, a bascule bridge that will be suitable for heavy goods vehicles, and harks back to the old bascule bridge that we used to have up at Sankey Bridges (right).
The proposed recreation feasibility study into Warrington's section of the canal is at the tendering stage and we have made submissions to one of the consultants pitching for the work. It is hoped that some of the initial works resulting from the study will kick-start the borough's Greenspace Improvement Programme, now adopted by the Regeneration Board. The Borough's parks did well in the recent Green Flag awards and it is hoped that canal projects in the Sankey Valley can help build on that success.
There is mention elsewhere in this issue on the Society's possible involvement in the new visitor centre at Blackbrook, and as our Communications Officer, Dave Smallshaw later points out, this may be an opportunity for SCARS members who are unable for whatever reason to help in the canal restoration project, to get involved in a scheme that will both move the Sankey Canal agenda forward, and help the heritage and community sectors in St Helens. It seems certain that the current active membership of the Exec cannot take the project on their own, and we would certainly welcome not only views on the proposals, but any expressions of interest from anyone who thinks that this may be 'their bag'.
If things have been quiet on the northern banks of the Mersey, there has been a not dissimilar picture on other canal restoration schemes round the country, with the 'credit crunch' inevitably putting the dampeners on new funding. Around the corner in Liverpool, the public realm elements of the Liverpool Link opened in time to feature in the city's Capital of Culture year, with boats still targetted to be part of the Three Graces scene from next Easter. The Cotswold Canals, which I mentioned last time, had a massive boost in early December with Stroud District Council agreeing to be Project Managers for Stage 1a of the £12m Heritage Lottery Funded project, filling the gap left by the back-pedalling British Waterways. Despite the inordinate amount of work that had gone into the scheme prior to BW pulling out, it would have been very easy for the whole house of cards to have tumbled; the local authorities, HLF and the Cotswold Canals Trust are to be commended for not allowing that to happen – another lesson that strong partnerships can withstand those "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune".
Back closer to home, I was pleased to be able to attend the opening of the Margaret Fletcher Tunnel on the Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal in September. The new tunnel under Trinity Way provides access to a new 'Lock 1' on the canal opposite Granada TV Studios, and a short length of canal above the lock has been excavated as part of the Middlewood development. A major fillip for the MB&B and in a very public space – even though the canal through the Middlewood development may initially be more ornamental than fully functional, it is the essential first step to taking the canal back out through Salford.
The tunnel was achieved through some good fortune when the Trinity Way inner ring road was being proposed – what could have been a new obstruction to the canal ended up being a few hundred thousands pounds-worth of valuable canal restoration. At the time, the MB&B restoration was making slow progress and this important road project could have been allowed to ride rough-shod over it; almost literally so.
It can be a thin line between infrastructural projects like new roads putting the scuppers on a canal scheme, and providing the opportunity to secure some significant restoration. The MB&B scheme fell on the right side of that thin line, and we need to make sure that the relationships are in place to ensure that the Sankey would do the same if a big new threat came along.
Best wishes to all for 2009, and remember – do get in touch if you think you can help in any way.
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