Multi-million pound plans to restore a historic canal in Shropshire to its former glory are being considered by council bosses.
A section of the 200-year-old Shrewsbury and Newport Canal, which runs through Shrewsbury from the Buttermarket, in Castlefields, on towards Uffington, could once again become navigable to narrow boats if the ambitious £7 million plans are backed by council chiefs.
And today the Shrewsbury and Newport Canals Trust, which has been working to re-open the canal since 2000, revealed a first glimpse of what the restored waterway could look like.
Bernie Jones, trust chairman, said he hoped the scheme would be akin to the regeneration of the Birmingham canal, creating a ‘cafe culture’ along the canalside.
He said the restored canal could generate millions of pounds in tourism as narrowboat visitors flocked to Shrewsbury and would open up a safe ‘green corridor’ for both pedestrians and cyclists into town.
The waterway was largely designed and constructed by famous engineer Thomas Telford in the late 18th century.
Its terminus lies adjacent to the Buttermarket at the Castle Foregate Basin. From that point the canal travels through Castlefields, Ditherington, Sundorne and out towards Uffington. The historic Flax Mill in Ditherington was built beside the canal.
It is hoped the project to restore the canal will coincide with major £12 million plans to regenerate the Flax Mill.
Many parts of the canal would need to be re-filled with water.
Mr Jones said grant funding would be sought from a number of partners to raise cash for the scheme but added the project would be able to tap into a supply of free labour from the Inland Waterways Association’s Waterway Recovery Group.
He said: “The IWA’s WRG restores disused canals and has about 2,500 volunteers who would be willing to dig out the canal.”
He said council bosses and councillors in Battlefield, Castlefields and the town centre were looking into the scheme’s feasibility.