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Government debate highlights the benefits of canal restoration

The value of canal restoration was acknowledged in parliament last week, with benefits to the economy, environment and the public's mental health given as just some of the advantages of bringing waterways back to life across the UK.

MP for Montgomeryshire Craig Williams told the House that the benefits of canal restoration were “huge”, both in terms of economic contribution to tourism and in environmental benefits, which he said “cannot be overstated”.

He also acknowledged the role restored canals have been playing during the coronavirus pandemic, citing the ongoing restoration of the Monmouthshire Canal in his constituency. “The canal touches lives, as we have seen throughout this crisis. Huge provision is being made to increase the cycle network in this country, and towpaths already cater for walkers, canal enthusiasts and cyclists. I hope that will generate more money into the sector. This is about providing a safe opportunity for people to enjoy the countryside and our canal networks, and I hope very much the government will put more money into that.”

Williams called on Rebecca Pow, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, to consider the restoration projects across the UK and said that government investment in canal restoration would be “excellent value for money” with “a huge positive return to the Exchequer and the public purse”.

Pow responded by saying: “The restoration of our disused canals is proving very valuable. The Government recognises the very considerable benefits our canal network brings in myriad ways, such as providing greater access to the outdoors, enhancing wellbeing, bringing us closer to water, engaging with nature, increasing leisure and recreation, increasing regeneration and bringing value to the economy. I  think we are singing from the same hymn sheet in that I am a convert to canal restoration.”

Gill Davies
Tuesday, June 9, 2020
  • The tranquillity of the restored Wey & Arun Canal has been of great benefit to many during the coronavirus lockdown (Photo by Mike Burnell).