Cash boost for county’s canals

A CANAL group is to benefit from a £90,000 windfall which will boost their on-going project to restore an historic waterway.

Derbyshire County Council has earmarked the cash to help pay for a dedicated waterways officer to focus on the county’s canals for the next two years, including Cromford Canal.

Major work will begin later this year on the 14.5 mile stretch of water to help make it navigable once again.

Boats haven’t used it since 1944, but the county council has earmarked a further £300,000 to dredge a 1.3 mile stretch so that boats can sail between Cromford Wharf and Leawood Pump House.

Cllr Simon Spencer, deputy leader of Derbyshire County Council, said: “Cromford Canal has a rich history and is part of the World Heritage site.

“This investment will bring long term benefits to the area.

“Tourism is an integral part of the Derbyshire Dales economy and the work will enable boats to be run on the canal for the first time in many years.

“Increasing visitor numbers to the area will create jobs and opportunities for local businesses.

“The work will have an ecological value too, clearing silt and reed from the central channel of the canal and improving the area round the water for wildlife which many visitors come to see.”

It is hoped the cash set aside for this project may help to access external funding in the future.

Dredging is due to take place over nine weeks in the winter when it will cause the least disturbance to the canal wildlife.

With high hopes of a navigable stretch being completed by next year, Friends of Cromford Canal could soon be looking into buying their own narrow boat to use along the canal.

The dredging work follows a £450,000 project funded by the county council to carry out essential repairs to the canal’s railway aqueduct.

County council engineers discovered the 163 year-old structure over the Derby to Matlock railway line was corroding and in danger of collapse.

The scheduled monument is thought to be the only surviving example of a suspension girder bridge left in the country.

Repairs to the aqueduct were completed in November last year along with a new permanent steel towpath built as part of the project.

Cllr Spencer added: “We’re pleased to be able to contribute to the success of the canal.

“Our commitment to improving waterways across the county is highlighted by the fact we’re funding a dedicated officer to work on developing opportunities provided by our canals.”