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Heritage Lottery Fund visit report

Funding Bid Convener Val Kirby reports on the HLF visit on Wednesday 17th February

The Heritage Lottery Fund delegation spent a wet and windy Wednesday examining the route of the proposed restoration of the Stroudwater Navigation from Saul Junction to The Ocean.

The six person delegation

  • David Heathcoat-Amory, HLF Trustee
  • Cherry-Ann Knott, HLF Committee Member for the South West
  • Nerys Watts, HLF Regional Director for the South West
  • Tom Brewer, Senior Grants Officer, South West
  • Laura Joyner, Grants Officer, South West
  • Katherine Oughton, Grants Officer, South West

The delegation met the Project Partners and members of the Funding Bid Team and asked a wide range of questions.

First stop — Eastington

The tour began at William Morris College at Eastington. Strategic Director Jon Nissler welcomed us and explained the role of the college and the relevance of the restoration to the college and its students.

Next stop — Walk Bridge

It is here that Whitminster Lane currently crosses The Stroudwater Navigation by a fixed low level bridge. Here we met Mark Darlow-Joy, Highways Contracts Manager for Gloucestershire County Council, and Nick Brojer, from Gloucestershire Society for Industrial Archaeology. The delegation and project members talked about the historic importance of the Stroudwater Navigation, the connection to the rest of the country’s navigable waterways at Saul Junction and the first major construction project, replacing Walk Bridge.

Then — on to Fromebridge Mill

Here Adam Taylor, from Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, talked about our aspirations for wildlife and biodiversity. Ken Burgin then explained how the canal will be restored under the A38 roundabout, with two new bridges and a cutting.

Next stop — Pike Bridge, Eastington

We walked west along the canal to Westfield Bridge, to meet Simon Pickering and Marcus Beddoe of Ecotricity to talk about the missing mile. Before getting back on the bus we visited Western Depot, where Ron Kerby gave the party a brief tour of the workshops.

On the bus to Bonds Mill

From where we walked along the towpath to Ocean Railway Bridge.

Pat Swift explained how we are working with Network Rail on plans to replace the existing culverts with a new bridge. After walking through the culvert to The Ocean, we met Dave Marshall from Stroud District Council, who talked about the work that SDC have been leading on Phase 1A.

The last site visits were mostly by bus. We drove past Stonehouse and through Stroud to Bowbridge, with Ken Burgin pointing out features along the already restored canal. At Bowbridge we looked at the almost restored lock, where volunteers were working.

Back to Ebley Mill — For a walkabout

Boatmobility volunteers were paddling the group's Katakanu. Another busy group were the Cotswold Canals Trust Volunteers engaged in the installation of the first of two Canoe & Boat Landing Stages opposite Ebley Mill.

A big ‘thank you’ is due to all the volunteers who were out in dreadful weather, just to be there when the visitors walked by — you were noticed!

After a soup & sandwich lunch, everyone met in the Stroud District Council Chamber for a brief presentation followed by a question & answer session.

How did it go and what happens next?

The whole day went very well. The HLF party was clearly engaged the whole time. They were impressed with the way the visit was organised and were happy with our answers. Now all we can do is await the outcome of the HLF group’s deliberations.

Decision announcement delayed until mid to late May

The HLF will make its decisions on this year’s major Heritage Grants on 19 April — although the results will not be communicated to all applicants until after the Local Government Elections in early May.

The Trust will then be informed in confidence so that we can plan how to publicise the outcome of our bid. Realistically, therefore, we are looking at mid to late May before any formal announcement can be made.

The BIG question

Everyone is asking ‘What are our chances of success?’

We must not be over confident. Here is why…

  • The total value of the projects that are seeking funding is £140 million
  • The available ‘pot’ is just £50 million
  • We are asking for £15 million — 30% of the total available

So, it is clear that even if we have a brilliant bid — and of course we are sure that we do — we must be prepared for rejection this time.

That won’t be the end of the project of course, because we would certainly apply again. We have done well so far. The project is backed by a fantastic group of partners, and the experience and expertise of the people who have built the bid is simply outstanding. We will be thrilled to be awarded a major grant this year.

But, if we don’t succeed this time…

We will simply pick ourselves up, carry on, and apply again in November.