Canal extension on track after Melksham meeting

Saturday, 22nd December 2012

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Proposals to extend the Wilts & Berks canal through Melksham have moved one step closer, following a public meeting in the town.

More than 200 people attended the consultation meeting on December 6, ahead of the planning application being lodged with Wiltshire Council.

The meeting was held at the Assembly Hall and saw representatives of the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust discuss the proposal with residents.

The trust is hoping to extend the Wilts & Berks Canal from Semington to the River Avon in the town centre, as part of an ambitious plan which will eventually connect Melksham to Abingdon and the River Thames.

The 3km canal will run along much of the route of the original Wilts & Berks Canal, which was abandoned in the 1920s.

The meeting was introduced by Richard Wiltshire, chair of Melksham Council’s canal working group, who said: “We’re currently putting the proposal through the planning system – the application has already had 188 public comments online.

“It will evolve as it goes through the planning system, and any positive contributions will be looked at seriously.

“Melksham would be the only town directly on the restored canal, and it would benefit from tourism and associated commercial and residential development.”

Concerns were raised by residents in the affected areas about the long-term impact of the canal, but Coun Wiltshire maintained they would be taken into account.

He said: “I think all the concerns that have been raised will be worked into the revised plans as it goes through the planning process. Nothing has been set in stone yet, and the plans are still to be finalised.”

The plan has been driven forward by volunteers of the canal trust, who have spent many years working to restore the waterway.

At the meeting, Ken Oliver of the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust gave a presentation on the progress already made in restoring parts of the 58-mile project.

It was also attended by representatives from Melksham Chamber of Commerce, Wiltshire Council, Melksham Town Council, Melksham Without Parish Council and Melksham Community Area Partnership.

A decision from Wiltshire Council is expected in the new year.

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