World heritage site 'could be under threat by cuts in canal funding'
A funding cut of over £300 million poses a “serious threat” to the Llangollen canal and world heritage site, according to a member of the Welsh Senedd.
Llyr Gruffydd, who represents North Wales in the Senedd, says the sharp reduction is “alarming” and has warned that it will lead to an “inevitable” decline in the condition of the canal network and could even result in closures.
The UK Government recently announced a long-term funding settlement for the Canal & River Trust which includes Glandŵr Cymru/Canal & River Trust in Wales, for the period from 2027 to 2037.
The network in Wales, includes the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, the Chirk Aqueduct and the 11 miles of the Llangollen canal which has been designated a Unesco World Heritage Site - a section which begins in Shropshire.
Both aqueducts were designed by renowned civil engineer Thomas Telford.
Mr Gruffydd, of Plaid Cymru, has said the “irresponsible” decision by the UK Government puts this Unesco World Heritage site at risk and has called on ministers to think again.
He says the scale of the proposed cut has been projected to rise each year to reach a nearly £50m annual reduction by the end of the new grant agreement period in 2036.
Mr Gruffydd said: “This irresponsible decision by the UK Government presents a serious threat to the canal network in Wales.
“It should be remembered that these are historic waterways and they include a Unesco World Heritage Site.
“The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, the Chirk Aqueduct, as well as 11 miles of the Llangollen Canal are an important part of our industrial heritage in Wales, and this funding cut by the UK Government clearly puts them at risk.
“It represents almost a halving of real-terms public funding for canals in the ten years from 2027 compared with recent years. It will inevitably lead to a decline in the condition of the canal network and the alarming prospect of canal closures.
“It has been shown that the network of canals delivers substantial benefits to the economy, to people and communities, and to nature and biodiversity.
“The announcement risks turning back the clock on one of Wales’ greatest heritage regeneration stories and will lead to the loss of both vital nature habitat and treasured public spaces with a loss of substantial benefits for millions of people.
“To make matters worse, the decision to reduce long-term funding comes at a time when, the cost of maintaining the historic canals, locks, bridges, aqueducts, embankments, reservoirs and other critical assets is increasing.
“This is in part due to the rising impact of climate change with more periods of drought and extreme storm events.
“The canals bring the benefits of green space and nature corridors into urban areas, reaching millions of people, creating wildlife corridors, contributing to flood defences and drainage, and transferring water to support public water supply.
“Research has shown that the canals support local jobs and boost the economy. They also deliver social welfare value to people and communities including significant physical and mental health benefits.
“Tory ministers need to seriously think again about this damaging decision.”