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Melksham eyes economy boost as canal link gets closer
Melksham's economy could receive a major boost if an application to build a canal link to Semington is approved.
The Wilts & Berks Canal Trust has submitted the application for the link from the Kennet and Avon Canal at Semington Bridge and the River Avon at the junction of Western Way, Bradford Road and Beanacre Road.
As the original route of the disused canal is now under housing, the trust has planned a new route from Semington to Berryfield and across open fields to join the River Avon.
In the town centre a new weir would raise the water level to allow boats through.
The floodgate above the town bridge would remain as it is, but a new river lock and a hydro-electric turbine would be built alongside.
Trust chairman John Laverick said: “This is one of the most significant moments in the history of the restoration of the Wilts & Berks Canal.
“There was a time when the charity was mainly concerned with conservation, but people wanted to bring it back to life.
“So we’ve prepared plans and consulted with the community. Instead of turning our backs on the river, we’ll turn it into one of the town’s most important assets.
“It’s ambitious, but we won’t be expecting local taxpayers to foot the bill.
“We’ll be approaching national organisations such as the Heritage Lottery Fund and other bodies.
“This is how the nearby Kennet & Avon was restored and reopened, and we see no reason why it shouldn’t be the same for the Wilts & Berks through Melksham.”
Graham Ellis, president of the Melksham Chamber of Commerce, said: “Even with purely the Semington to Melksham link, it could do so much for the town.
“When you start thinking about the following plans, that could do so much more.”
Hayley Spencer, chairman of the Melksham Indepen-dent Traders Association, said: “I think it’s a positive move for the town.
“From a trader’s point of view I’m not sure what will happen, but from a resident’s point of view it’s an excellent perk for Melksham.”
Melksham mayor Chris Petty said: “It’ll boost Melksham as a place to come and visit and I hope it will bring tourists in.”
If approved, work on the multi-million pound project could start within the next few years.
Once complete, the trust would aim to build a second link between from the River Avon at Melksham Forest to join the Wilts & Berks Canal at Lacock.
You can see the plans at www.wiltsandberkscanal.org.uk
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