The proposals for a two-mile stretch of waterway from the town centre to the nearby Grand Union Canal are part of Daventry District Council’s vision to transform the town into a new visitor destination encouraging tourism, leisure and economic growth.
At its meeting last night (Thursday, 27 July), the Council approved plans to spend up to £300,000 to prepare a Business Plan for the scheme.
The business plan would be subject to due diligence and examine in detail the option of delivering a first section of canal costing £8.71million. A final decision on whether to proceed with spending this money will not be made until the Business Plan returns to a future Council meeting for consideration.
Funding identified from the Council’s budgets for the canal project is capital money, used to invest in land and property and separate to that spent on the day-to-day running of services. If investment for a first section is approved in the future, the £8.71m would be gradually reimbursed to the Council through the Community Infrastructure Levy planning charges paid by developers of new housing to fund local infrastructure projects – and potentially other external funding sources.
At last night’s meeting the Council also agreed to seek planning permission for an inclined plane boat lift on the canal as an alternative to locks.
Councillor Colin Poole, DDC’s Economic, Regeneration and Employment Portfolio Holder said: “This latest decision by councillors demonstrates the Council’s long-term commitment to building a new destination canal arm. It enables us to move forward with preparing a business plan for Council to then make a final investment decision.
“Work is continuing behind the scenes towards securing the external funding needed to deliver the entire canal and we need to demonstrate to potential investors that we are prepared to match-fund the project with capital money if required.
“Towns need a unique offer to compete with others and attract more visitors, businesses and investment – Daventry’s lies in its key location in a District at the heart of the waterways network. The canal will lead to a vibrant water space destination in the centre of Daventry including retail and leisure outlets such as bars and restaurants.”
The Daventry Canal Arm is one of the projects contained with the well-established Daventry Town Centre Vision which was adopted by the Council in 2004 to regenerate and grow the town centre for the benefit of the local community, businesses and organisations in the face of significant future growth.
The proposed two-mile stretch of canal and parkland would provide a valuable piece of green infrastructure offering valuable wildlife habitat and recreational space for local residents, workers and visitors. It will link to a new Waterspace development with mooring facilities and services off Eastern Way, Daventry, blending leisure, offices and housing.
Dean Hawkey, a local Daventry resident and Chairman of Daventry Canal Association which is supporting the proposals, said: “This latest step by the Council is encouraging news. As a narrowboat owner who has travelled extensively for more than ten years, I have seen how canal boating has become a massive leisure industry, with thousands of boats in the Daventry area.
“There are many examples of towns that have benefitted from the existence of a canal and Daventry can create a truly 21st century destination, not just a redevelopment of an old canal facility.
“If the town centre waterspace is developed to a high standard, I believe it will be a major success, encouraging further investment by businesses, attracting visitors to our shops, and tourists to our hotels and restaurants. To do nothing will condemn Daventry to many more years of stagnation.”
Full planning permission for the canal was granted in January this year and the permission is valid for 3 years.