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Year-long Grand Western Canal repair work could start in May

By Mid Devon Gazette  |  Posted: February 12, 2013

By Richard Wevill

The breached section of canal

The breached section of canal

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WORK to repair the breached Grand Western Canal could begin as early as May, if Devon County Council this week gives its expected approval to a refurbishment project.

The council last month pledged an estimated sum of £3-million towards the repair of an embankment which collapsed at Halberton in November, as well as improving infrastructure.

The canal has been dammed at Greenway Bridge and Rock Bridge, effectively creating two separate canals, one four miles in length from Tiverton to Halberton and the other six miles to the end of the canal near the county border.

A report examining the repair of the canal breaks down how the estimated cost of £3-million would be spent: £2.4m - cost of repairing the breach, strengthening the embankment and reinstating the canal.

£250,000 - cost of emergency response following breach and on-going clean-up costs.

£250,000 - provide more advanced water level monitoring system along the canal and new system to regulate those water levels

£100,000 - studies and surveys looking at all potential water sources feeding into the canal and of the effectiveness of all existing culverts , siphons and drainage ditches.

The council is aiming to have the work completed in time for the canal to host a major boating festival in the spring of 2014.

Prior to the breach, the Inland Waterways Association had informed County Hall of its decision to hold its National Trailboat Festival at the Grand Western Canal next year to celebrate the canal's bicentenary. The festival is a three day event and is due to take place in May next year.

The report says it would "seem appropriate to commit to completing the works in time for the festival."

It acknowledge this will be challenge: "However, in order to achieve this timescale major earthworks would need to be undertaken during the drier summer months of 2013, requiring a tender award and a contract start date as early as May 2013."

The report which will be presented to members of the council's cabinet at a meeting tomorrow (Wednesday) says the design of the works will aim to "make use of as much of the existing site material as possible."

Though the bulk of the council money will be spent on repair work at the breach site, the report says improvements to the way water levels are monitored along the eleven plus mile stretch of the canal.

The report states: "The breach has highlighted the need for the somewhat archaic system of monitoring water levels on the canal to be upgraded."

In the conclusion of his report, Lester Wilmington, head of highways and traffic management at the council states: "The Grand Western Canal brings significant benefits to the socio, environmental and economic well-being of the Mid Devon area. The concern and interest expressed by local people and the general public has been most evident."

Read more from Tiverton Mid Devon Gazette

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