Ambitious plans for Melksham’s future, including the exact route of the new canal Link, have been unveiled by the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust to the town’s Area Board.

A farm for rare breed animals, a campsite with log cabins for holidaymakers and a nature reserve are some of the potential developments the area could have within the next five years alongside the new canal.

Hundreds of new homes are also part of the initial design and Berryfield could be in line for a primary school, village hall, pub or hotel.

A marina may also be built in Semington, on land to the left of the old A350 on the Melksham side of the Semington canal bridge.

About £20m is needed to build the canal Link, which will connect to the Kennet and Avon Canal at Semington and allow boats to pass through Melksham, using part of the River Avon, to the restored Wilts and Berks Canal at Lacock.

The Wilts & Berks Canal Trust is hoping to raise part of this money from developers investing in the proposed businesses and developments.

Most of the new homes would be built between the new canal and the old A350 or Western Way, with only one section being on the other side, bordering the present houses at Berryfield.

Plans for digging out the canal are now being finalised and a planning application will be submitted to Wiltshire Council by the summer.

A map showing the new sections of canal to be dug was on show at the meeting last week.

The new section from Semington will link into the River Avon on the watermeads at Challeymead, opposite West Midland Farmers.

If it is approved work will start early next year. After a consultation in the town on the second stage of buildings and facilities, the plan is that they should be finished by 2021.

Chris Coyle, company secretary of the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust, wants the canal to become a focal point for the community to enjoy.

He said: “We believe the restoration of the canal will bring enormous benefits to both the economy of the Melksham area and to the well-being, health and fitness of the area.”

Link project manager Paul Lenaerts said the plans have had full support from the town council.

He added: “There has been a minority of residents who think boats on the river through the town is not a good idea, but the majority are looking forward to it.”