Good afternoon everybody.
The Cotswold Canals Trust issued the following Press Release earlier this afternoon:
Canals restoration still going ahead…
Despite the unexpected and sudden withdrawal of British Waterways from the partnership responsible for restoring the canals link from Saul to the Thames, the Cotswold Canals Trust, along with other key partners, is determined that work carries on.
"This is far from being a show-stopper," says Liz Payne, chairman of the Trust, "only a major hiccup. And our work will go on unabated."
Monday's announcement by British Waterways was made without prior notice to the Cotswold Canals Partnership, and prompted some immediate examination of the funding issues involved. "There was some confusion in the minds of the public that linked this latest issue (BW's withdrawal) with the unsuccessful bid for a second round of Big Lottery funds," said Ken Burgin, the Trust's newly-appointed chief executive. "But that was for the restoration of an entirely different section of the canal."
British Waterways' decision is likely to mean a shortfall of around £4.5million from the overall identified funding of £35million (for Phase 1a), after all of the figures have been worked through. "That's less than 13 per cent, and we shall be looking for new partners, as well as discussing with our present partners the way forward from here," said Liz Payne.
"We mustn't ignore the fact that British Waterways' decision was a result of their own funding crisis over the Monmouth and Brecon canal repairs. Progress on the Cotswold canals has been much slower than originally expected and the Trust hopes that the inevitable changes resulting from BW's withdrawal will mean the restoration making more rapid progress."
Meanwhile David Drew, Stroud's MP, wants an urgent meeting with the Minister responsible for waterways, and is seeking to reconvene the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee that investigated British Waterways' funding. The remaining members of the Cotswold Canals Partnership will be meeting urgently to plan their next steps.
Let us all hope for a successful outcome to the negotiations that are undoubtedly taking place between the parties as you are reading this.