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Planning permission granted for “Missing Mile” of historic canal restoration

East of M5. Credit YouTube Court Above the Cut

Canal restoration took another major step forward yesterday (Tuesday, February 27) after permission was granted for a key stretch to be reinstated.

The go-ahead from Stroud District Council’s Development Control Committee means reinstatement of the missing section of canal that was filled in during the construction of the M5 motorway in the 1960’s, can go ahead. This will include the construction of a new canal channel from John Robinson (Westfield) Lock at Eastington near Westfield Bridge to connect with the new channel already constructed at the A38 roundabout.

The scheme in Eastington covers both sides of the M5 and includes a towpath with new pedestrian bridge, a new mooring basin with space for 44 non-residential moorings, and a two-storey building including café and canal basin manager’s accommodation.

“This is an important step forward for the restoration of the Stroudwater Navigation (canal) and aligns with our Council Plan objective to submit a planning application for the ‘Missing Mile’,” said SDC Environment Committee Chair, Councillor Chloe Turner, after the meeting.

Since Stroud District Council and Cotswold Canals Trust took on leadership of the project in 2008, 7.5 km of canal between Stroud and Stonehouse has been restored, transforming the route into a peaceful walking and cycling alternative to the busy adjacent A419, and created a vibrant new water habitat for nature.

The route diverts away from the historic route of the canal, as this original route has been built on at the motorway junction, highway depot and A38 roundabout and link road. The new canal channel diverts south from Westfield bridge before going under the motorway, sharing the existing River Frome underpass with a dividing wall which will act as a flood barrier.

“The canal restoration brings huge benefits to the district in terms of inward investment, biodiversity, health and wellbeing, and tourism,” said Environment Committee Vice-Chair, Councillor Robin Layfield. “This major milestone means more people can enjoy this unique corridor of outdoor space.”

Key partners in the project include Gloucestershire County Council, Canal & River Trust and Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, plus charities including Cotswold Boatmobility. Canal restoration has made access to the water easier for a wider section of the community, and seen the successful staging of talks and events including The Lock Challenge.

Work on the Missing Mile has been scheduled into the engineering programme and will commence later this year in line with the planning conditions. A significant proportion of the works on both the Missing Mile and other sections of the canal will be volunteer-led projects.

Cotswold Canals Trust is currently scaling up its restoration volunteer teams with the skills, equipment and resources required to deliver this project. Anyone interested in volunteering on this historic project to restore the Stroudwater Navigation can find out more at cotswoldcanals.org/volunteer/volunteering-opportunities/

This project would not be possible without the work of volunteers and the generous support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, National Highways, public grants, charitable trusts, corporate sponsorship, legacies and private donations. Progress can also be followed at  www.facebook.com/cotswoldcanalstrust/ and www.facebook.com/cotswoldcanalsconnected

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Both images credit: YouTube - Court Above the Cut

West of M5. Credit YouTube Court Above the Cut

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