IWA has continued its campaign to get better protection for our waterways and their users over the last 6 months, working closely with CRT and with the affected canal societies and trusts.
Phase 1 London to Birmingham and Handsacre
Our petition to the House of Lords was deposited in April, seeking better noise screening at all canal crossings and an underpass for the Wood End Lane diversion that would keep it away from the Trent & Mersey Canal near Wood End Lock, Fradley.
CRT petitioned for a longer viaduct across the Curdworth locks to preserve a more open view, and were later able to withdraw their petition when this was agreed. In July, after years of negotiations, they were finally able to sign a ‘Side Agreement’ which replaces the protective provisions within the Bill. It limits canal closures outside the ‘Stoppage Season’, establishes design principles for bridges, states minimum headroom requirements, covers advance mitigation planting and much else, including setting out detailed requirements for each of the 14 canal interfaces. Some inconsistencies in the clauses about the canal diversion at Cappers Lane are being addressed.
Lichfield Cruising Club petitioned for a clearer commitment to funding their replacement moorings and slipway, and they obtained some last minute concessions on this when they appeared before the House of Lords Select Committee in July, although HS2 Ltd. have since delayed payment for the necessary design work.
House of Lords Select Committee
IWA’s petition hearing finally took place on 23rd November and Deputy National Chairman Gren Messham again presented our case to the Lords Select Committee. The case for residential standard noise protection at canal crossings was heard politely and everything seemed to be going well until half way through our evidence on Wood End Lane, when questions from the committee indicated that they had not read our submission, understood the plans, or been paying much attention. The chairman Lord Walker of Gestingthorpe asked why we were concerned about the realignment of a small lane, and clearly didn’t even know where it was, and Lord Brabazon of Tara wanted to know which was more senior, CRT or IWA.
After such superficial questions it was little surprise that the Department for Transport Counsel Mr Mould did not bother to go into details of the alternative alignments and advised the Lords it would be “a very bold step” for them to suggest that Staffordshire Highways be instructed to accept realignment of Wood End Lane away from the canal. Instead, they should allow the Assurance given to CRT to review the case to “take its course” (- this despite the fact the assurance was given 10 months ago before our Commons Select Committee hearing and HS2 had done nothing to implement it meanwhile). The only concession was a statement that IWA would be consulted as part of that review.
Turning back to our noise evidence, Mr Mould confirmed that HS2 has invented a new criterion which was that residential moorings had to be occupied “by the same people” to qualify for noise protection, so that moorings where there were a succession of different boats being used residentially for shorter periods didn’t count. He did admit that sections of canal would be “less congenial” places to stop without more noise barriers but suggested that was “a relatively small price to pay” for, apparently, saving HS2 a few thousand pounds.
We await the final report of the Select Committee, presumably sometime in December, to see if their Lordships were in fact more attentive and sympathetic than they appeared, but not with much hope. However, with CRT on our side there is still an outside chance that Staffordshire County Council can be persuaded about Wood End Lane, and we do not intend to give up on the argument for adequate noise protection for canals, not least because what happens on Phase 1 will set a precedent for further crossings on Phases 2a and 2b.
Phase 2 in South Yorkshire
A report was published in July proposing a changed route in South Yorkshire avoiding Sheffield, which would also avoid the major threat to the Chesterfield canal restoration, subject to Government acceptance.
Phase 2a Fradley to Crewe
Consultations on the Working Draft Environmental Impact Assessment and Design Refinements for the early extension of the route from Fradley to Crewe were announced in September. After attending exhibitions and meetings with affected parties, IWA’s responses were submitted in November. Our main concerns are the noise impacts from both construction and operation on the marinas and moorings at Great Haywood and Hoo Mill and the inadequate height and extent of the acoustic fencing proposed across the viaduct. Also, the height of the embankments and viaducts across the Trent valley have been increased and will be clearly visible and audible from the Trent & Mersey Canal north of Fradley Junction. We have therefore supported the suggested move of the maintenance loops from Pipe Ridware to Stone as this should allow them to be reduced again.
Phase 2b Kingsbury to Leeds and Crewe to Manchester
The Preferred Routes for the remainder of Phase 2, from the junction at Kingsbury via the East Midlands to Leeds, and also north from Crewe to Manchester and Wigan, were announced on 15th November. There are several changes from the previous 2013 routes some of which benefit and some of which additionally impact various waterways.
On the Eastern leg, in Lichfield Branch area:
The Coventry Canal crossing at Polesworth is unaltered and will be on a 10m high viaduct, with the line cutting through the middle of Pooley Country Park.
The Ashby Canal crossing at Measham has been moved from near the A42 to the other side of the town. This will enable a stalled housing site to go ahead, including reconstruction of the canal arm into Measham Wharf, which is good news. However, the new crossing of the restoration route is at entirely the wrong level for the canal. IWA and the Ashby Canal Trust and Association will be campaigning to have the vertical alignment altered.
Further along the Eastern leg:
The Chesterfield Canal restoration will be much less affected if the recommended route change around Sheffield is agreed. This also avoids the previous impacts on the Barnsley, Dearne & Dove Canals restoration prospects, whilst the Sheffield & South Yorkshire Navigation crossing would be on a high viaduct near the much publicised Shimmer housing estate which is threatened with demolition.
The Aire & Calder Navigation was threatened by reduced headroom for commercial navigation but a new alignment will remove the multiple crossings leaving only one at sufficient height.
On the Western leg:
The Middlewich Branch Canal crossing has been increased from one to three adjacent bridges to carry extra tracks into a proposed rolling stock depot north of Crewe.
The Trent & Mersey Canal north of Middlewich will be particularly badly affected by a change of route that increases the crossings from one to three in a distance of 2km.
There will also be a crossing of the Bridgewater Canal and a high level crossing of the Manchester Ship Canal whilst towards Wigan the link back to the West Coast Main Line runs parallel with the Leigh Branch of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal.
The consultation period for Phase 2b is unusually long, until 9th March 2017. We are still studying the many documents and plans, but IWA will be seeking early meetings with HS2 to press for changes at Measham and the best possible noise mitigation and visual screening elsewhere.
IWA’s Festival of Water was held this year on the Wyrley & Essington Canal in the attractive surroundings of Pelsall North Common. Although the Saturday was showery and ended in a heavy thunderstorm, the Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday were warm and sunny which brought out good crowds to enjoy the event.
Some 120 boats were moored from Yorks Bridge to beyond Pelsall Works Bridge creating a colourful spectacle, with historic boats around the junction with the Cannock Extension Canal and trading boats at the centre of the site.
On land were a wide variety of stalls and entertainments including IWA’s sales and recruitment marquee, a WoW tent and a historic photos stand.
WRG were busy giving enthusiastic youngsters a taste of digger driving and possibly recruiting future navvies to help with the several canal restoration groups present. These included our local Lichfield & Hatherton Canals Trust, the Wilts & Berks Canal and the Buckingham Canal. WRG North West, the BCN Society and CRT provided more waterway interest and back on the water the Truman Enterprise Narrowboat was taking people on free boat trips.
Among the many entertainments were musicians, fairground rides, classic cars, birds of prey, crafts and a miniature steam engine ride. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves and the whole atmosphere of the event was friendly and relaxed, helped by the spacious site and informal layout.
Despite the early rain, the ground conditions remained excellent on both the site and the car park area, and the neatly mown grass was kept spotlessly clean by volunteer litter collectors. A huge amount of voluntary effort, before during and after the event, by the organising committee and local volunteers went into making this Festival an outstanding success. Lichfield Branch members played a major part in this, but thanks are due to everyone who contributed.
(Report and photos by Phil Sharpe)
Significant progress has been made on the Stafford Riverway Link with a work party to excavate the canal basin at Baswich. A group of around 8 volunteers put in over 300 hours of voluntary work during the week from 16th to 23rd April, following on from earlier trial excavations.
The Stafford Riverway Link is the new name for the old Stafford Branch Canal or River Sow Navigation which formerly linked the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal at Baswich with the town centre of Stafford. The restoration project aims to rebuild this link for community benefit.
The link consisted of a short section of canal branching off the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal near St Thomas Bridge 101 leading via a basin and an aqueduct over a drainage channel into a lock down into the River Sow. From here the river course was straightened and made navigable for 1½ miles to its terminus at a basin near Green Bridge in Stafford. The route can still be walked on riverside footpaths and the potential value of the restoration of the link to boaters and for trade and tourism in Stafford can be appreciated.
A large part of the old canal basin has now been dug out, moving over 100 cubic metres of spoil using earth moving machinery kindly loaned from Stafford Boat Club who have been very supportive of the project from the start, as also has the land owner. The entrance walls to the old aqueduct have been fully exposed, along with the remains of partial stone walling along the towpath bank.
The volunteers have also consolidated about half of the old lock cottage foundations so that people can see the layout of the rooms.
Alongside the adjacent Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal, the old entrance bridge approach wall was repaired, making it safer after years of neglect and vandalism, and a new stock proof boundary fence erected together with a new access gate.
Finally, some of the gravel material from the basin was used to re-surface about 20 metres of the canal towpath, work which the Baswich Canal Group will continue towards St. Thomas Bridge later in the summer.
Stafford Riverway Link was incorporated as a Community Interest Company (CIC) in 2009. A Feasibility Study was commissioned in 2011 with financial support from IWA and Staffordshire County Council, and working parties have been held at Baswich since 2012.
For more information on this waterways restoration project see the SRL website at: www.stafford-riverway-link.co.uk
(Report and photos by Phil Sharpe)
IWA Lichfield Branch members recently took Cannock Chase MP Amanda Milling and Staffordshire County Councillor & Cabinet Member Mark Winnington on a narrowboat trip along the Trent & Mersey Canal from Armitage, through Brereton to the northern end of Rugeley near to Brindley Bank Aqueduct.
The purpose of the trip was to introduce the VIPs to some of the volunteers who have worked so hard to improve the canal environment through Rugeley, and to see and discuss future possibilities for improved access, ‘green’ corridors and the potential for tourism.
Along the way we noted several recent and current housing developments that benefit from an attractive canalside setting, where IWA has contributed to improving the original plans.
At a brief stop around Leathermill Lane, the damage to the bridge caused by misdirected lorries could be seen, and the difficulty faced by the disabled trying to access the towpath was also noted.
At the former Rugeley town centre moorings just north of Leathermill Lane Bridge, many boats are now unable to moor there because of bank erosion. This has been a concern for some years as tourist income from hire boats is a good boost to local shops during the summer months. The average spend from each person on a hire boat is £10 per day. With some hire boats being shared by over 8 people that could be over £80 per day lost by each boat unable to moor in the town.
The environmental impact of HS2 on the Trent & Mersey Canal near Fradley Junction was also discussed.
Everyone had an enjoyable morning viewing the canal at a gentle pace, especially when the sky brightened and the cake came out !
Our thanks to Anglo Welsh at Great Haywood who kindly provided their day hire boat free of charge for us. Thanks also to Margaret for organizing the trip and catering, Terry for collecting, returning and steering the day boat, Margaret & Derek for bringing their boat as back up, and to several other Branch members for their assistance.
(Report from Margaret Beardsmore, photos Phil Sharpe and Margaret Beardsmore)
On 4th February IWA’s Gren Messham presented our case to the House of Commons HS2 Select Committee at Westminster, in the last session of the last day after 18 months of hearings. We requested better noise mitigation measures for all affected sections of canals, and an alternative route for the Wood End Lane diversion keeping it away from the Trent & Mersey Canal.
See this report for further details.
CRT also presented evidence in the same session asking for an extended viaduct over Curdworth Locks to maintain open views. Lichfield & Hatherton CRT had earlier accepted Assurances about construction of the canal diversion at Cappers Lane enabling them to withdraw their petition.
On 22nd February the Select Committee published its Second Special Report with its comments and recommendations including:
But there was no mention of the need for residential standard noise mitigation for all affected canals.
See also this report for further details.
On 10th March the Promoter’s Response to the Select Committee’s Second Special Report was published and includes:
But there was no response to the committee’s comments on CRT’s design principles for canal crossings or on the Wood End Lane diversion, although a review of the road alignment is covered by an assurance given to CRT as part of their Side Agreement.
On 23 March the Third Reading debate was held and the Bill was referred to the House of Lords with a petition period starting the same day. IWA Trustees have since agreed to petition the Lords on our outstanding noise and Wood End Lane objections which were not resolved by the Commons Select Committee, with the petition to be deposited by 18th April.
More background information about IWA’s HS2 Campaign can be seen on the main website.