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Ambitious Melksham canal project to expand

An artist’s impression of the ambitious scheme

An artist’s impression of the ambitious scheme

A marina, visitor centre and wildlife area could now be added to the ambitious plans to bring the Wilts and Berks Canal through Melksham town centre.

Plans for the canal to run along the river Avon through Melksham town centre were unveiled in 2012. And now, the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust is hoping to see an even more ambitious scheme built.

The initiative has followed a positive public response to the canal scheme and economic benefit study on what the canal would bring to the town. The Melksham Link Project has also been looking at ways to increase the proposed development to include residential development and recreational areas.

The canal proposal would see five kilometres of navigable waterway along the River Avon as it goes through the town centre. The waterway is set to include new locks, bridges, a towpath and cycleway, together with visitor mooring, landscaping, environmental improvements and even a hydro-electric power scheme on the river.

And now a marina, visitor centre and wildlife area, along with a canal side residential development, look set to be added to the plans.

Spokesperson for the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust, Paul Lenaerts said, “These ideas are very much at the outline stage only. There will obviously need to be a great deal of discussion and negotiation with landowners, local councils and statutory authorities, as well as consultations with the local community.

“However, the concept of widening the scope of the project to include recreational and wildlife areas, as well as residential developments, is very exciting, and would present more opportunities for community involvement and leisure activities.

“The economic benefit study, produced last spring, predicted an annual benefit to Melksham’s economy of between £2million and £3million based on the original development plans.

“The more ambitious ideas would significantly increase these predictions, but would require co-operation from all stakeholders.”

The planning application for the construction of the waterway itself was submitted in September 2012. There were many responses from the public in support of the scheme, plus a few objections, and after all environmental, engineering and archaeological studies have been completed, it is hoped that consent for the Melksham Link will be given in spring 2015.

If planning consent is granted, the Trust intends to start work on two phases to implement the scheme; the new junction with the Kennet & Avon Canal at Semington, and the hydro scheme for Melksham weir.

Agreements with landowners and funding for the scheme are still to be finalised.