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Study set to take place on regeneration plans for two canals

27 Apr 2024 4 minute read
Aberdulais Aqueduct Credit: Inland Waterways Association

Lewis Smith, local democracy reporter

A study is set to take place into the possible regeneration of two canals, after funding was secured from the National Lottery.

Neath Port Talbot council has secured funding of £113,850 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund’s Heritage Places initiative for the Neath and Tennant canals project.

Despite being two independent but linked canals they are usually regarded as a single canal.

A council spokesperson said the money will go towards “a comprehensive options appraisal study” into the canals, which will look at ways to regenerate them, as well as what they can offer to the people and communities of Neath Port Talbot.

Community asset

They said: “The study will be part of the phased long-term Canal Connections project working to secure additional funding to regenerate the canal system in a sustainable way into an accessible community asset for active travel and recreation, establishing it as a heritage destination which connects local communities.

“The two canals are heritage rich, containing three scheduled monuments, a large number of Grade II listed-buildings, 27 buildings/structures of local interest and a conservation area (Neath Canal Depot).

“The canals enable residents to reconnect with nature and the communities along its length, linking the town centre to valley areas. There is a recognition of the importance of these spaces on people’s health and wellbeing as these waterways can be improved to provide clean, green spaces for local leisure activity where rich biodiversity thrives.”

The plans come just months after the popular waterways were placed under threat, as council members setting the budget debated ending contracts worth around £135,000 per year to retain a public access along the towpath.

However, after much debate during the scrutiny process this proposal was removed, along with other measures that could have included switching off street lights at certain times.

The Neath Canal was first completed in 1795, with extensions added from Neath to Giant’s Grave a year later, and further private extensions, including the Jersey Canal reaching Briton Ferry by 1842.

The Tennant Canal was a development of the Glan-y-wern Canal, which was built across Crymlyn Bog to transport coal from a colliery on its northern edge to a creek on the River Neath called Red Jacket Pill.

It closed after 20 years, but was enlarged and extended by George Tennant in 1818, to provide a navigable link from the River Neath to the River Tawe at Swansea docks. The canal was extended to Aberdulais basin, where it linked to the Neath Canal.

Speaking about the plans, Neath Port Talbot Council’s cabinet member for nature, tourism and wellbeing, Cllr Cen Phillips said: “Our canals are a fantastic resource both in terms of heritage and wellbeing and we are grateful for the financial backing coming from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for this important project.”

Positive impacts

Cllr Jeremy Hurley added: “Greater use of these canals can bring really positive impacts for the health and lives of all those who live in and around them and they can also attract people into the county borough improving the health of our economy.”

Sue O’Hare, chair of the navigation committee for the Inland Waterways Association (IWA), said she was delighted by the positive work to preserve the area’s canals.

She said: “In January IWA wrote to Neath Port Talbot Council urging them to recognise the value of public access to whole length of the Neath and Tennant canals. We are therefore delighted by this positive development and look forward to contributing to the study to help ensure the canals’ future.

“They serve as vital active travel routes, benefiting the environment, economy, and local communities. We urge the council to prioritise the preservation of Aberdulais Aqueduct, a scheduled ancient monument threated with demolition, and work with Natural Resources Wales to ensure its restoration as part of wider flood management plans.”

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Peter Cuthbert
Peter Cuthbert
15 days ago

Good to see some money coming in this direction. Just hope that some clear thought has been given to the ongoing maintenance costs. If the canal network is going to be an open access active travel route that would be good for residents, but generates a zero revenue stream. It would be sensible to include navigation from which some revenue could be generated, though it would be unlikely be sufficient to cover all the costs. It probably also needs an enthusiasts group of volunteers who will provide free ‘grunt’ labour to do the hedge cutting, grass cutting and any number… Read more »

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