Historic 200 year old industrial canal considered for £110m restoration
Saul Cooke-Black, local democracy reporter
A £110m full restoration of the Torfaen section of the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal is among options set to be considered by borough councillors, as a vision for its future development is outlined.
The first part of the canal opened in February 1796 and was built as an industrial corridor to carry coal and iron to Newport. It was joined with the Brecknock and Abergavenny Canal in 1812.
Torfaen council is looking to develop a strategic vision for the canal amid concerns from residents the authority is “not maintaining nor improving the canal in a way that meets expectations”.
Councillors and residents will be asked for their views on the future development of the section of canal under Torfaen council’s ownership, from Elm Grove in Griffithstown to the county boundary with Newport City Council.
A report coming before councillors at a meeting on Thursday has drawn up five options which could shape future plans for the canal.
These include improving community partnerships and co-ordination, by increasing the council’s work with community-run projects around the canal.
Drawing up plans to restore the southern section of the canal, or full restoration of the southern and northern sections – which is estimated to cost £110 million – will also be considered.
Previous work has recognised the economic, social and environmental benefits which could result from full restoration.
A report says it was recognised this could present “a major strategic opportunity for south east Wales and the Cardiff Capital Region with the potential to act as an exemplar for sustainable development delivering economic, social and environmental benefits”.
But costs were placed at £85 million and are now estimated to be at least £110 million.
Development costs to enable the work are also estimated at £11 million and a report says funding would have to be secured from multiple bodies.
Any business case on the project would also have to look at the return on investment, which the report says is “likely to be low given the high implementation costs”.
The “key question” councillors will be asked at Thursday’s meeting is around how the council can ensure the canal is “a driver for sustainability, tourism, green infrastructure and development”.
The report says: “There has been a groundswell of community concern over the last 12 months or so, primarily related to a perceived lack of maintenance and control of the residential development in the South Sebastopol area.
“The concerns are wide-ranging from those with various interests and have highlighted the lack of a single point of contact for the canal, and the lack of a strategic policy direction.”
It also highlights “significant improvements” to the canal over recent years, including schemes at Five Locks and Sebastopol canal basins, restoration works at Crownbridge, the Waterworks restoration project at Ty-Coch and most recently the Monmouthshire and Brecon adventure triangle projects.