On Friday 03 November 2006 at Waterton Park Hotel, Walton, Wakefield the Barnsley Canals Consortium hosted a Conference to launch ‘The Feasibility of Restoration Study for the Barnsley, Dearne & Dove Canals’
The conference was attended by representatives of the 3 Local Authorities, Wakefield, Barnsley and Rotherham, various waterways organisations, landowners and local voluntary organisations.
The conference was chaired by Mr. John Fletcher, Chairman of the Inland Waterways Association, who in his opening speech highlighted the national importance, in waterways terms, of restoring the Barnsley, Dearne & Dove Canals citing the thousands of users of the canal system and its environs. Mr. Fletcher stressed how the investment in restoring canals has acted as a catalyst for regeneration and job creation, the results of which consistently outperform expectations and become vehicles for further inward investment.
Mr. John Openshaw, Chairman of the Barnsley Canals Consortium, gave an overview of the Consortium, its organisation and a summary of the way forward which includes the transformation of the Consortium into a registered company with charitable status which would oversee the whole operation.
Mr. Patrick Moss of the consultant W S Atkins, and the Project Manager for the Study made the Technical Presentation in which he identified a usable route utilising, wherever possible, the original route; the various major obstacles and solutions to surmounting them. The expected overall costs of professional restoration were estimated at £127 million for restoration to narrow beam standard, although volunteer input would reduce this. If restored to its original wide beam standard, costs would be greater. It is estimated that the possible annual income to the local economy would be around £3.1 million per annum, there would also be an increased land values along the Canal Corridor plus further potential benefits to the whole community in the adjacent region. Mr. Moss cited several similar restoration projects that Atkins had been involved in, all of which had shown better than forecast benefits.
Mr. Moss highlighted the Primary recommendations from the 250 plus page report as follows:-
· The Barnsley, Dearne and Dove Canal should be restored to full navigation from the Aire and Calder Navigation to the Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigation.
· The line, as identified in the report, should be protected in all development plans.
· The route should be provided for in the event of new infrastructure crossing it, as required in Government planning guidance.
· There are decisions to be made about the gauge of the canal and the form of the canal at two major obstacles, Wath and Rexam. These decisions do not need to be made now to protect the line of the canal
· The Barnsley Canal to Barugh should form part of this restoration
· The Elsecar Branch should be protected as an historic feature while a decision is made as to whether to include it within the restoration project
· The route of the Worsborough Branch should be protected to allow provision of a water supply channel and multi user route should the branch not be restored to navigation
· A parallel cycle track and multi-user trail should be provided at an early stage: this could be done within two years
· The restoration should be phased as outlined in the report.
· The future of any lengths of canal that survive but are not used in the restorations scheme should be reviewed: these may present opportunities for environmental mitigation.
· A project officer (who may be the canal manager) should be appointed to push the restoration proposals forward
· A full environmental assessment of the restoration scheme should be prepared. On the basis of the work undertaken in this study it is not envisaged that any insurmountable problems would be encountered, but it would be at this stage that area specific and site specific mitigation may be provided.
· Preliminary Design Studies should be undertaken to determine the required corridor width at all locations
· Negotiations should commence with land owners with a view to assembling the route of the canal.
He concluded with the following warning
Mr. Ed Balls MP, Member for Normanton and a prominent member of the present government, here wearing his “Constituency hat” gave a short but upbeat speech supporting the whole project.
The conference was rounded off with short question and answer session
Notes for Editors:
The Barnsley Canals Consortium is a grouping of local authorities, the Inland Waterways Association, the Royston and Carlton Community Partnership, the Barnsley Dearne & Dove Canals Trust and other interested bodies.
The Barnsley Dearne & Dove Canals Trust is working in partnership to reinstate the two canals which form the missing Yorkshire Waterways Link between the Aire & Calder and the Sheffield & South Yorkshire Navigations. See www.bddct.org.uk for further information.
The Inland Waterways Association (IWA) is a registered charity, founded in 1946, which advocates the conservation, use, maintenance, restoration and development of the inland waterways for public benefit. IWA has over 17,500 members whose interests include boating, towing path walking, industrial archaeology, nature conservation and many other activities associated with the inland waterways.
See www.waterways.org.uk for further information
In 1793, Acts of Parliament were passed to construct both the Barnsley and Dearne & Dove canals to transport coal from the nearby coalfields. Both canals were a commercial success, contributing greatly to the area’s prosperity. After 1914, the canals declined due to competition from road and rail and were gradually abandoned. Restoration began in 1984 with the formation of Barnsley Canal Group.