Edwina Hart MBE, Minister for Economy, Science and Transport, welcomed the proposals from Glandŵr Cymru – the Canal & River Trust in Wales – which unveiled a ten-year strategy to support its ambitious aims at the Senedd in Cardiff.
People are now being asked for their comments on the plan, which focuses on the economic, health and conservation benefits waterways can provide in Wales, working in partnership with local communities and government.
The aims in the next decade include:
- Supporting the restoration of 17 miles of the historic Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal, to connect the Brecon Beacons to the sea – the £70million project would provide jobs, education and training opportunities, as well supporting the nation's 200-year industrial heritage
- Creating visitor facilities along the Llangollen Canal worthy of the World Heritage site which is home to the iconic Pontcysyllte Aqueduct – the ambition is to capitalise on the already huge popularity of the area by creating new and exciting tourism and business opportunities
- Conserving wetland habitats along the Montgomery Canal – which has the largest population of floating water plantain in the world. The project supports local wildlife, as well as the visitor economy and jobs opportunities in the area
- Giving people the chance to take genuine ownership of their local canal by ‘adopting' a stretch
- Supporting the national health agenda by encouraging walking and cycling along waterways to be advised ‘on prescription' from doctors
- Running a programme with the Arts Council of Wales to inspire new audiences through the arts
- Working partnership with Cardiff University to identify more chances for canals to support jobs, education and health
Dr Mark Lang, chair of Glandŵr Cymru's, said: “Wales' canals are already much-loved and supported. They are beautiful, home to 200-years of proud industrial heritage and contribute over £30million to the national economy each year. But there is so much un-tapped potential.
“Now, with the waterways outside Westminster-control for the first time since the Second World War, we want to ensure they are at the very heart of supporting Welsh business, tourism and health priorities. We know that the first job is for us to make sure our waterways continue to be relevant to people's lives, only then can we build the support and investment that will see them benefitting communities in a major way.
“Our plans are ambitious, but purposefully so. We know it will take a lot of work, and it'll mean ourselves, communities, local groups and government at all levels joining together. This starts with people telling us what they think of the plans, so I'd encourage anyone interested to let us know what they think.”
Edwina Hart MBE, Minister for Economy, Science and Transport, said: "The development of our waterways in Wales provides an excellent opportunity to develop successful tourism destinations that can provide a high quality environment for our visitors. In addition to this, the facilities for visitors will also be used by local communities in which they are located and will help generate local income and jobs.
“There is evidence of inland waterways in the UK transforming destinations and providing hot spots for investment and growth. I would encourage that the focus of any development schemes in Wales promote associations with local culture to support tourism but also instil local pride and identity.”
Glandŵr Cymru cares for the Swansea, Llangollen, Montgomery and Monmouthshire & Brecon Canals in Wales. The draft 10-year strategy has been produced by the charity's All Wales Partnership which is made up of nine members drawn from people living and working in Wales to advise the charity on strategic direction and ensure that it is working with Welsh Government to support national priorities such as health and employment.