Pressure on minister for canal repair investment
MORE than a month after presenting Minister Eric Pickles with a copy of the Tiverton Gazette and a DVD capturing the dramatic breach of the Grand Western Canal, the chairman of Halberton Parish Council is still hoping to press the matter with Mr Pickles in person.
Ken Browse, chairman of Halberton Parish Council, said he had not received any formal communication from the Communities Minister since their meeting but said if he was in the "right place at the right moment," he vowed to "do the best" for the community he represented. Mr Browse was last month elected as chairman of the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) for the forthcoming year, and this role will bring more opportunities for Mr Browse to be in contact with the minister with responsibility for the Government's 'localism' agenda and dealings with town and parish councils.
A spokesperson for the Department for Local Government and Communities told the Gazette if financial help were to be available to help with canal repair costs this would be the responsibility of DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs).
MP for Tiverton and Honiton Neil Parish said he was also discussing possible funding for the restoration of the Grand Western Canal.
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He told the Gazette: "I am still discussing with John Hart, the leader of Devon County Council, and the Government what monies we can find to help. Wherever there is money we can tap into I will do my best to make sure we get that money."
Speaking in a Commons adjournment debate last Thursday, Mr Parish said it would cost a "huge amount of money to put the canal right" but he said the waterway was a "great asset to not only Tiverton but the country."
The former MEP said he was also exploring options including whether possible European match-funding could be found to assist with the repair costs, which are as yet unknown but are expected to run into millions of pounds.
A report is in the process of being written regarding the breach and the options for restoration which will go to Devon County Council's cabinet in the new year.
Last week, the Environment Agency and volunteers from Tiverton Angling Club returned to the field adjoining the breach site to conduct another fish rescue, in which they released hundreds of fish elsewhere along the canal.
Two miles of canal near Halberton drained into farm land on Wednesday, November 21, following the collapse of the 198-yaer-old embankment, which required temporary dams to be put in place in order to prevent further damage.