Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Price of coal to plummet in Daventry

It must be why the town of Daventry is planning to bring the Grand Union into town. The planning authorities have even approved the construction of a marina, before the canal arrives.

I'm fascinated by the enthusiasm with which this town seeks the canal, while the Cut is still barely tolerated elsewhere. They may do lots of little brochures and talk about the role canals play but most towns and cities don't really mean it.

In my home town of Bishop's Stortford, successive planning permissions have resulted in the end of navigation of the Stort becoming an absolute dump - ugly tall apartments towering over the canal and ground level carparks behind dark grills, so no-one has any desire to use the towpath or even the water. Horrible. The whole stretch is now an ASBO zone. Then,laughably, the local council have talked about regeneration. It was their witless planning that have created this damp, gloomy little corner in the first place and now they talk about brightening it up. Hopeless, utterly hopeless!

Recently I have seen how Walsall, Wednesbury, Birmingham, Oldbury and Sandwell have all allowed their canals to deteriorate. Birmingham and Walsall have then glamourised the canals and created the opportunity for commercial and residential real estate developments. However, very often the associated infrastructure is inappropriate or inaccessible to boaters, walkers and other traditional waterways users. The worst outcome - and a very common one - is where the property owners either prevent mooring or complain about boats and obstruct plans to install sanitary facilities or visitor moorings. These riparian properties usually make absolutely no contribution to the social or financial well-being of the waterways. There just has to be a better way!
The city and town authorities also make little real contribution to the waterways these days, other than more enlightened planning. Again, given the value and revenue the canals drive and the lift for the economy, there should be more money spent on the waterways.

It is encouraging to see Daventry so enthusiastic about the arrival of the canal, but hard questions should be asked of the town about what, exactly, it intends to put in to the canal in the way of money for maintenance, activities, infrastructure, moorings and events.

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