2. What is the history of the site?
Historically Brimscombe Port was the country’s largest inland port, created to transfer goods from large sea going Severn Trows to Thames barges to navigate the narrower canal to the east. This link was promoted by local clothiers as well as London merchants to link with the Midlands. The Stroudwater Canal was finished in 1779 and the Thames and Severn Canal a decade later in 1789. Amazingly for that era the Port was capable of handling 100 vessels at a time.
Following the decline in canals the Port became redundant. The canal was in-filled in after the Second World War and the site developed as an industrial estate during the 1960/70’s.
Some historic buildings survive, including the Salt Warehouse and the Port Mill. Both are listed and charming stone buildings. Much of the site still acts as an industrial estate but has become unattractive and is showing signs of its age.
Initially Brimscombe Port was part of Phase 1a of the Cotswold Canal Restoration project, the original aim of which was to reinstate the canals from Stonehouse ‘Ocean’ to Brimscombe Port. The port was acquired in 2009 from British Waterways by Stroud Valleys Canal Company with grant funding from the South West Regional Development Agency (SWRDA); the expectation at that time was that it would deliver both a redeveloped port and provide funding for other sections of the canal.
After the property crash in 2009, subsequent marketing proved the site to be unviable without additional public investment. Phase 1a of the canal project was scaled back to finish at Bowbridge while additional funds were sought for the Port.
The site is now owned by Stroud District Council and is allocated in the Council’s Local Plan for 150 homes and is within the Industrial Heritage Conservation Area, being of significant cultural and historical value. It comprises part of the proposed reinstated Cotswold Canal and basin and so is unable to be developed for a non-canal related scheme. Once complete the Port will be the destination at the eastern end of the canal.
In 2015 the Council was successful in securing £2m from Homes England. The Council has since committed £2.9m to the project and has also received Land Release Funding through One Public Estate in the sum of £776k. Together these contributions have made the redevelopment more viable and has enabled a Developer to be selected to create a unique waterside attraction.