Silver birch trees were planted this afternoon to celebrate the completion of the award-winning A38 Whitminster Roundabout canal restoration project.
Andrew Page-Dove, South West Regional Director for National Highways, joined Jim White, John Newton and Matt Lee, all Trustees of the Cotswold Canals Trust, and Cllr Vernon Smith, Gloucestershire County Council cabinet member for highways to plant trees at the special event.
A commemorative plaque was also unveiled at the pandemic-delayed ceremony to celebrate completion of the National Highways-funded project and the start of the next stage of the Missing Mile – the M5 crossing and digging of the Missing Mile.
Work will start afresh in the new year to progress the ambitious project, which will eventually see a newly restored canal travel under the M5 near Junction 13.
Despite taking place during the pandemic, and with significant challenges including maintaining traffic flows on a busy roundabout, the teams delivered the works on time, and recently won two awards at the Institute of Civil Engineers South West Awards 2021: The People’s Choice award and Project Under £8million Award.
The rest of the `Missing Mile’ project will see a new canal channel dug between Whitminster and Eastington, crossing under the M5 underpass, the building of 2 new locks and the reconnection to the historic canal channel at Eastington
In May 2019 National Highways (formerly Highways England) awarded £4 million towards the estimated £8.5m project to restore the ‘Missing Mile’ on the Stroudwater Navigation including waterway, locks, bridges and wetlands which were demolished when the A38/A419 roundabout and M5 were built in the late 1960s west of Stonehouse.
This spectacular community heritage restoration project has been brought to Stroud District with thanks to the £4m grant from Highways England’s Designated Funds, the project management of Gloucestershire County Council Highways Team, Atkins Structures and the dedication contractors Alun Griffiths LTD.
Jim White, Chair of the Cotswold Canals Trust, said: “National Highways support for this project has been immense. As a result of their funding and support since 2019 we have achieved a major milestone in the history of our Charity. As we walked with our guests today across the Missing Mile, we were able to fully appreciate the significance of this achievement.
“I could not be prouder to be Chair of our Charity than I was today, and know that our partnerships with Statutory organisations, such as National Highways, is the difference between our success and failure.
“Today we planted three Silver Birch trees to mark this occasion and plant roots for the future.”
Andrew Page-Dove, National Highways’ South West Regional Director, said: “I am so pleased that we can finally celebrate the success of this award-winning scheme and I’m very proud of what our funding has helped to achieve.
“Our Designated Funds programme was developed so that we can invest in improvements like this, which go beyond traditional road building and maintenance, and have a positive impact on people and communities.
“This first phase of the ‘Missing Mile’ canal project has brought significant benefits to the whole restorationas well as the local community and we now look forward to seeing the scheme progressed in the future.”
Cllr Vernon Smith, Gloucestershire County Council cabinet member for highways, said: “I’m delighted to see that this project to help restore the ‘missing mile’ of the canal network has been completed.
“I would like to thank the project team for their hard work and for achieving this when faced with the many challenges posed by Covid-19. It’s great to see this part of the canal has been reopened and I’m sure it will attract many visitors to the area.”
As well as the canal, the whole restoration will provide a new walking and cycling route, environmental improvements with more than 21 hectares of wildlife habitats and a safe crossing for people under the A38. This project is the first of many, and next May the Ocean Rail Bridge in Stonehouse will be replaced and Walk Bridge will be re-commissioned. To find out more visit: www.cotswoldcanals.org.