Canal Restoration in Churnet Valley Threatened by Planning Application

A planning application for 48 new houses will prevent future restoration of a Staffordshire Moorlands canal if it is given the go ahead.  The partly greenfield site, between the existing canal basin at Froghall and the nearby A52, includes the buried remains of 3 locks and the former line of the Uttoxeter Canal.

The proposed development would effectively end the volunteer-led project to restore the Uttoxeter Canal, blocking all possible routes for the canal through Froghall. The proposal contravenes both the Churnet Valley Masterplan and the Staffordshire Moorlands Local Plan. Both policies support restoration of the canal as a long-term opportunity, with a pedestrian route from the canal basin to the A52, down the original towpath, as a short-term goal.

The first lock and basin of the Uttoxeter Canal were reopened in 2005, in a £625k partnership project between volunteers, British Waterways, local and regional authorities, backed by the European Regional Development Fund. The 2009 restoration feasibility study confirmed that the line of the canal from Froghall as far as Denstone could be restored with minimal deviations from the original line. Between 2012 and 2016, the Trust carried out restoration works further down the canal between Alton and Denstone, in a £105k project supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund as the single largest project in the £2m Churnet Valley Living Landscape Partnership. This grant was used to restore Bridge 70 and uncover the line of the canal and towpath in that area, laying a new towpath in the process. Since then, volunteers have cleared an additional mile of towpath and have revealed the site of locks and other structures along the line of the canal, including the unique and Grade II listed Crumpwood Weir, where boats crossed the River Churnet.

Steve Wood, Chairman of the Caldon & Uttoxeter Canals Trust said:

“It is hugely disappointing that we find ourselves having to oppose a proposal which could have enhanced brownfield areas of Froghall, whilst giving the long-awaited opportunity to uncover this section of the canal, something we have been keen to do for over a decade. Our recent investigations have shown that sections of the canal and its structures are still present in this area and we would like to fully uncover these, with a view to later restoration.

“The Uttoxeter Canal is a uniquely important waterway as having been one of the earliest canals to close yet is surprisingly well preserved due to its very remote route through the Churnet Valley. Our volunteers have uncovered locks and other structures, preserved exactly as they would have been in the middle of the 19th Century. We encourage anyone who supports our aims of protecting and enhancing this very special waterway to respond to the planning application, reference SMD/2020/0684, on the Staffordshire Moorlands District Council website.”

Tony Walley
Tony Walley
News & Sport Editor

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