|Swindon Town Centre Route|
The Wilts & Berks Canal Trust is currently restoring over 60 miles of the canal. As part of the strategic plans the Trust & its Partners had proposed to bypass central Swindon . The map below shows the alternative to bring the canal back through the town as part of the regeneration project planned by the New Swindon Company.
In 2007 the Trust and Swindon Borough Council commissioned a feasibility study to examine a new route from Kingshill to the town centre. The study was carried out by Halcrow and is a large document and can be accessed from the link on the left.
Why not use the old route into the town centre?-
This would be possible but the historic line has been used to bury many services and therefore it would be just as expensive to build. The route was an industrial highway and was not chosen for its setting.
The new proposal would create a green space to include the GWR park and the heritage of Brunel's Railway Village
What is the case for the canal in Swindon? The economic impact of canal restoration is recognised in studies following the completion of the Kennet and Avon Canal restoration.
By extrapolation from the Kennet and Avon, the expected uplift in spending generated by the Wilts & Berks canal is estimated to be £8-9m p.a. gross spend by casual visits retained in the Swindon local economy. The canal will bring a central focus to Swindon Town Centre and improve the environment, and the interest generated by boating activity will significantly increase the footfall as the canal will be a visitor destination in its own right.
This is what the canal might look like in the railway village
Swindon could take on some of the atmosphere of other large towns and cities
Numerous examples of this effect are seen in the region at locations such as Banbury, Reading, Bath, and Bristol. Birmingham city centre (shown above left) has been greatly influenced by inclusion of the canal network into the retail and office developments. Restoration or building canals in a 21st century urban environment can be carried out and managed to minimise disruption A restored waterway in Stalybridge (shown above right) on the Huddersfield narrow canal, was restored with Millennium Commission funding, and had to remove a car park and factory built on the canal route.
Liverpool is set to open the Liverpool Link during 2008- a new canal in a major city-
Swindon , The Wilts & Berks Canal Trust and the Future
The Trust is keen to see the canal used not only by visiting boaters but to use its link to the south as a possible transport route for a waterbus service and to provide a recreational environment for walking, cycling and other water-side activities. The habitat created by the canal in the Town Centre would provide an environment for plants and animals and would provide a central green corridor for the town.
Is this a canal going nowhere?
No its part of the restoration of all of over 60 miles the Wilts & Berks Canal
Our Ten Most Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is restoration of the canal through Swindon feasible? Yes, Halcrow produced a feasibility study in 2007 - The town centre route forms part of the Swindon Central Area Action Plan which was the subject of a planning inquiry in 2008.
2. How much will it cost to put the canal through Swindon and Who will pay? The study estimates about £50 million which is 2% of the cost of rebuilding Swindon town centre and will bring in an estimated £8 million per year to the economy thus paying for itself in 6 years. There are a number of opportunities for funding including the developers. Swindon Borough Council leader Rod Bluh has stated that this will not be funded from Council Tax revenues
3. What route will the canal take through Swindon? The route shown will take the North Wilts Canal from the main line in Wichelstowe to Fleming Way. The route then will continue north to join the restored canal at Mouldon Hill and onwards to Cricklade.
4. Why can't we follow the historic line of the canal? The historic route from Kingshill to Milton road looks tempting but:- Under the greensward there are many services gas, telephone, cable, sewers etc which will need to be moved. The Westcott Place/Faringdon Road route has services to move too but offers the advantage of creating an attractive traffic free heritage area next to the Railway Village and Faringdon Road Park - a place that everyone will want to visit - A heart for Swindon
5. Where will the traffic go? This route will not be built until this question is answered - with or without the canal the issue of traffic in the town centre is being addressed by Swindon Borough Council. Currently nearly 50% of the traffic in Faringdon Road is not accessing the town centre but crossing Swindon!.
6. What benefit will there be for the people of Swindon? The easiest question so far! - The canal will bring jobs, tourism, restaurants, shops, wild life habitats, but most of all it will give Swindon the one thing it lacks (a Heart, a Soul and a place of peace and tranquillity). In other words somewhere you would like to be instead of being somewhere you have to be.
7. If we have a canal how do you stop people using it to dump rubbish? How do other Towns and Cities deal with this question? When you build a park or a road you build in the cost of keeping it clean and this is what we have done in our survey. There are no more vandals in Swindon than any other town so how do they keep their waterways clean and tidy? This question is always used as ‘scare mongering' by those opposed to the idea of making our town a place of beauty. If you don't believe us, go and look at Birmingham Brindley Place, London Little Venice/Paddington Newbury or countless other places and see what we mean.
8. When will the whole canal be finished? In Swindon it will be built into the town's regeneration in the next 7 to 10 years but our plans (endorsed by British Waterways) are to complete the whole canal from Semington to Abingdon, 52 miles, by 2025. We will be working to get the link to Lechlade completed first so that Swindon is linked to the Thames at the first opportunity.
9. When will work on the canal in Swindon start, how long will it take and how much disruption will there be? When a traffic solution is completed the canal can be built as part of the massive regeneration of the Town Centre. There will be disruption, but keeping this to a reasonable level will be part of the construction design.
10. Where is the water coming from to keep the canal full if we have droughts? Wilts & Berks Canal Trust have just had completed a major study by Grontmij to provide a solution to this. The canal for the 21st century will be built with a modern lining to make seepage loss an absolute minimum and a sustainable pumping system will recycle water used in the locks. There will be storage too (not on the scale of Coate Water which was the original canal reservoir) using water collected at times of high rainfall
And finally! How will the canal get across the M4? We are in discussion right now with the developers of Wichelstowe about this issue. We all agree it should be done at the same time as the development. We know how and where the canal tunnel should be built and we are ‘discussing' who should pay the £2m cost. We think it should be the developers as it will provide a traffic-free footpath and cycle link to Wootton Bassett as well as a canal.