Plan to reopen Monmouthshire and Brecon canal to boats

Image source, Billie Charity-Prescott
Image caption,
The upper stretch of the canal at Brecon is already well used

Boats could be brought back to a disused part of the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal as part of an estimated £65m restoration project over 10 years.

The Canal and River Trust wants to reopen the waterway between Five Locks in Cwmbran, to Barrack Hill in Newport, as well as the Cwmcarn branch.

It could also be extended to meet the River Usk at Crindau, Newport, where a marina could be built.

The trust wants to review current details on engineering plans and costs.

It is looking to appoint a consultant to study the information already available, identify any gaps or problems, and work out costs so it can look at funding sources.

The study area covers a five-mile (8km) stretch from Five Locks, Cwmbran, to the mouth of Barrack Hill Tunnel, Newport, which includes 30 locks, and the 8-mile (13km) section of the Crumlin arm from Malpas junction, with 20 locks.

It will also look at a proposed extension along to Crindau which would feature two locks between the canal at Pill and a tide control structure towards the River Usk.

The review will also need to consider how 16 major crossings, such as bridges, and 22 minor crossings and obstructions would affect the reopening of the canal to boats.

Image source, Canal and River Trust
Image caption,
Towpaths are being enjoyed - but some stretches of water are still closed to boats

A number of locks along the stretch have already been restored to a useable condition, but many are not commonly used and the canal remains isolated and there are still blockages between some of the locks.

The trust wants the consultant to suggest a suitable timescale for the various stages of the works, including looking at whether some restoration could be completed by volunteers, as has already happened along other stretches.

Andrew Stumpf, head of the Canal and River Trust in Wales, said the project would revitalise the canal network, act as a catalyst for attracting investment and boost wildlife on the water.

He said a similar restoration in Maryhill, Glasgow, had seen more people use the canals and towpaths, and had increased residents' participation in exercise by 20%.

The work could also provide training and apprenticeship opportunities for young people and would boost tourism for the businesses, such as pubs and shops, who work along it, he said.

"The canal is very accessible, it's on people's doorsteps and it's free to use. We want to stimulate investment but we also want people to take part in using their local area," he said.

"It's a bit of our heritage and it would be great to see boats back on the water, using it in exactly the same way as they did 200 years ago when it was used to transport coal and iron to Newport."

The restoration would be carried out in partnership with the Monmouthshire, Brecon and Abergavenny Canals Trust, Brecon Beacons National Park Authority and local councils.

Image source, Billie Charity-Prescott