Where now for Cotswold Canals?
THE REJECTION OF a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund for £15-million towards the £ 20-million restoration of four miles of the Stroudwater Navigation (connecting an already completed six-mile section to the national network) isn’t the end of the story. The Cotswold Canals Trust (CCT) is already planning a revised bid and CanalBoat talked to Chief Executive Ken Burgin as to where things will go from here.
Why did the bid fail? The Trust believes that the HLF regarded it as basically a good bid, with no major failings (although doubtless some ‘tweaks’ could be made), but that it was towards the top end of what was likely to succeed given the amount of cash available and the total number of bids. Most of the successful ones were for sums closer to £10m. Can the cost be pared-down next time? Not really. The whole objective of this length (known as Phase 1b) is to re-connect the restored Phase 1a (Stonehouse- Stroud-Brimscombe) section to the canal system at Saul. There are major engineering jobs (crossing the railway, M5 motorway and A38) and you can’t cut it much below £20-million without missing out something vital. Even trying to pare it back to the pure engineering work would be unlikely to succeed – the ‘extras’ such as education, community and heritage aspects are what ticks the boxes at the HLF. So what can be changed to give the next bid a better chance? The ‘match funding’ can be improved: firstly by securing more other sources of funding, to reduce the amount being requested; secondly, more work can be done to ensure a higher level of certainty of the match funding. The first bid identified sources of £5-million, but it would help if a renewed bid could get within ‘credible distance’ of getting it all confirmed when the bid goes in. It’s a fine balancing act: don’t ask for too much from HLF, but don’t rely on too much unsecured match funding either. Will a new bid go in this year? Not necessarily, There’s an added complexity in the form of a local company putting in an application for a major development by