Waterway Park Blocked by New Road Scheme

Waterway Park Blocked by New Road Scheme

27 April 2018

IWA is supporting the Bedford & Milton Keynes Waterway Trust following the announcement by the State for Transport, Chris Grayling MP, for a scheme to upgrade the A421 between Milton Keynes and the M1, which will have a major impact on the viability of a proposed new waterway.

The Bedford Milton Keynes Waterways Park, which would provide a new link from the Grand Union Canal in Milton Keynes to the River Great Ouse in Bedford, is important as it would provide a new link to the waterways of East Anglia, as well as creating a new waterway cruising ring and extending considerably the waterways accessible from the south by wide beam boats.

The route of the proposed new waterway, for which plans are well advanced, appeared to be protected in all the relevant Local Plans, until the announcement that Government had found £22.5m to turn the stretch of road between Milton Keynes and junction 13 of the M1 into a dual carriageway, with no provision for the proposed waterway to pass under the road. Planning permission is already in place for the culvert, and B&MKWT have been reminding transport planners of this over the last two years.

Following a vigorous campaign by the B&MKWT the road building consortium, led by Central Bedfordshire Council, has now recognised the importance of the waterway, and offered to make provision for it - at a cost. B&MKWT would have to pay for the cost of a culvert - estimated at circa £3m. In addition, the Council has asked B&MKWT to pay £150,000 within 3 weeks to fund the design costs for the culvert which wasn't included in their original designs.

Although £3m is a large amount of money, there is precedent where significant funds for similar protection of waterways have been raised after major campaigns. In the shorter term the requirement to find £150,000 in a very short length of time is challenging.

IWA is supporting B&MKWT in campaigning for:

  • Recognition that the Bedford Milton Keynes Waterway Park should be endorsed as part of the infrastructure planned for the Oxford/Cambridge corridor (and therefore properly funded).
  • Support from partners to secure funding for the culvert to ensure the A421 upgrade fully meets local plan policy, as other projects have been required to do.
  • Help from Consortium partners and other agencies in building a strong business case and bidding for available funds.
  • The need for a more realistic timescale so that a way forward is achievable.
  • Support to raise short term funding for the design fees for the A421 culvert.


IWA members and supporters, particularly those living in the constituencies which the new waterway would pass through, are asked to write to their MP in support of Bedford & Milton Keynes Waterway Trust's campaign, and to ask him or her to write to the Secretary of State for Transport to ask for full support for the provision of a crossing to be included in the scheme.

A letter template is available below. MPs whose constituencies the Bedford & Milton Keynes Waterway would pass through are:

  • Mohammad Yasin MP - Bedford
  • Nadine Dorries MP - Mid Bedfordshire
  • Mark Lancaster MP - Milton Keynes North
  • Iain Stewart MP - Milton Keynes South


DRAFT LETTER TEMPLATE

Dear (MP)

I am writing to ask for your support for the long term future of the proposed Bedford Milton Keynes Waterway Park, which would run through [your constituency], but is under threat from a scheme to upgrade the A421 between Milton Keynes and the M1.  In the proposals recently announced by Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling MP, there is no provision in the scheme for the proposed waterway to pass under the road.

The Bedford Milton Keynes Waterways Park, a proposed new waterway linking the Grand Union Canal in Milton Keynes to the River Great Ouse in Bedford, would bring regeneration, tourism and environmental benefits to the corridor along its route.  

The route of the proposed new waterway, for which plans are well advanced, appeared to be protected in all the relevant Local Plans.  Planning permission is already in place for a culvert at this location, but the detailed construction plans as announced do not make provision for it to be included, despite the transport planners having been made aware of this on numerous occasions over the last two years.  

We are aware that following a campaign by the Bedford & Milton Keynes Waterways Trust the road building consortium, led by Central Bedfordshire Council, has now recognised the importance of the waterway, by asking B&MKWT to pay for the cost of the culvert - estimated at circa £3m. In addition, the Council is asking B&MKWT pay £150,000 within 3 weeks to fund the design costs for the culvert which wasn’t included in their original designs.  This timescale is extremely challenging for B&MKWT.

I would ask you to write to the Transport Secretary to ask him to recognise and support the future economic and social value of the proposed new waterway by ensuring that provision for the road crossing is included in the A421 upgrading project.  

Yours sincerely

[name]

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