The creation of a canal through Melksham could herald a £55 million windfall for the town, according to a new report from a leading environmental consultancy.
The Wilts and Berks Canal Trust, which has worked to restore the Melksham Link in the town, has commissioned the report from Amec Environmental, which claims it could attract a new marina development, hotel and canal-side housing.
The 52-page document suggests 250 jobs would be created during the construction of the link, which would see the Kennet and Avon canal at Semington connected to the River Avon.
It also estimates around 100 new jobs would be created in tourism and says house prices near the route would increase.
Trust secretary Chris Coyle welcomed the report. He said: “Amec are very experienced in this field, so it makes sense to go to them. We hope local people will share our excitement at the benefits which a restored canal might bring to Melksham.”
A planning application for the development was submitted last year, with the trust currently waiting on the results of a series of environmental surveys before planning permission can granted.
Mr Coyle said: “We have got to satisfy everyone, but hopefully that will be approved some time during 2014. Then we would like to see it finished in five years.
“There has been a lot of support within the town for the proposal; many people can see the economic and other advantages of having that amenity there, with safe cycling and walking routes.
“The Chamber of Commerce is supportive too, as they can see the benefits that would come.”
The scheme is estimated to cost £21 million, and will be funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and other private investment.
The trust is preparing for a traditional river festival on the River Avon in Melksham on September 5 and 6, when it will showcase the social benefits of the scheme.
See www.wbct.org.uk for more information about the trust, and to read a copy of the report.