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Canal's collapse is nature's way of indicating our decline

By Mid Devon Gazette  |  Posted: December 31, 2012

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WELL, very sadly, we see that Communities and Local Government Minister Eric Pickles MP has chosen not to financially support the rebuild of the recently collapsed Grand Western Canal.

Well, no surprises there then!

What does the area actually mean to the Conservatives who seem to be constantly elected into Parliament to represent (support and develop) this part of Devon?

Surprisingly, though, this is not a letter with a political agenda. It is one in which, like the recently misguided Mayans, I am predicting an even bleaker future for a currently very bleak (rickshaws included) Tiverton and its surrounding area.

In a nutshell, our once Grand Western Canal was completed in 1814. (Please note that in the 1930s "dams were built either side of a section near Halberton where persistent leaks could not be cured" – Wikipedia).

The railways arrived around 1848 and the freight transport of the canal went into decline and it was formally closed in 1962.

On the orders of then Transport Minister Ernest Marples, the Beeching Axe was brought to bear and the Exe Valley railway line was closed in 1964. However callous the line closures, British Rail chairman Richard Beeching's intention was to develop major rail trunk routes across the country to encourage 'containerisation and container freight' and thus the main Bristol-Exeter line was eventually developed and in 1986, Tiverton Parkway became the main local railway station.

This seemed ideal, with the M5's Junction 27 already there and the A361 North Devon Link Road opening in 1988. There was Mr Beeching's plan coming together. A local infrastructure and transport network ready and raring to go. Containerisation here we come.

All that was needed now was for the local MPs to lobby the government for industry at Junction 27. Yes, an Industrial site that would bring employment, skills, education, prosperity and even apprenticeships to the local area.

But it hasn't happened. Why not? Well many older folk of this town will nod their heads and quietly mention the fact that the town's biggest employer had, and still does have a stranglehold on local industry and any competition would not be tolerated and certainly would not be fought for in Parliament.

And sadly, Mr Pickles, it seems this is the case.

Back to my 'Mayan-like' prediction. I believe that the collapse of the once Grand Western Canal is simply nature's way of saying to us all that this part of Devon is in serious and almost irreversible decline.

Why irreversible? Because if the Heathcoat factory follows the example of the canal and 'slides gracefully into a pit of recession and mass redundancy' – and with stiffening competition from China, India and other emerging nations, it could happen – Tiverton will become even more of a ghost town than it already is. though, on a lighter note, some tourists just might come for a rickshaw ride around an old, closed factory.

May I wish everyone in Tiverton a happy and prosperous New Year.

DAVE HARVEY Churchill Road, Tiverton

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  • nick113  |  December 31 2012, 8:37AM

    @Dave Harvey. I'm sorry to see the problems on the canal, but there is no reason to get apocalyptic about it. The canal was man made, and can be repaired given time, effort and money. The government is massively it debt and is right to think twice before dishing out money to everyone who would like some. The canal is a pleasant leisure facility, but it is not vital to local life. To talk down the Heathcoat factory in the same article is simply mischievous, and Mr Harvey should reflect on his attitude.

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