Funding cuts to national waterways will impact Grand Union in Leighton-Linslade, council told

Fears condition of canals in Central Bedfordshire will suffer from national funding reduction to trust authority
Linslade Canal FestivalLinslade Canal Festival
Linslade Canal Festival

Funding cuts for national waterways will trickle down to impact on canals, such as the Grand Union according to a motion presented to Central Bedfordshire Council.

The proposal to the local authority warned that a recent financial settlement for the Canal and River Trust from The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs represents a real term loss of £300m over a ten-year period.

Put to a full council meeting by Liberal Democrat Leighton Linslade South councillor Chris Leaman, the motion asked CBC to recognise the importance of canals to local residents, nature and wildlife and to note the trust’s concern over its latest funding terms.

It called on the council “to express concern that the steep financial reduction will impact inevitably on the condition of waterways, such as the Grand Union in Leighton-Linslade”.

This is “particularly as the trust deals with ageing canal infrastructure across the network, as well as droughts and storms from climate change”.

The motion also notes “the UK’s canal network is among the finest industrial heritage in the world and is highly valued by communities everywhere, including in Central Bedfordshire”.

And it asked council leader and Independent Potton councillor Adam Zerny “to write to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs urging her to reconsider the settlement her department has given the trust”.

Councillor Leaman added: “Those of us in Leighton-Linslade know the benefits of the canals and particularly what the Grand Union brings to our community.”

Conservative Dunstable West councillor Nigel Young explained: “I’m almost bound to support this because I represent this local authority on the Bedford, Central Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes waterway.

“Four kilometres of that project will be built eventually in Central Bedfordshire. It will run from Brogborough through to Stewartby and will join the River Ouse, while at the Milton Keynes end it will join the Grand Union Canal.

“We need to expand our vision to a degree and should be protecting all of our waterways, as well as those ‘new’ ones yet to arrive. The Canal and River Trust is a supporter of the waterway park I’ve just described, as is the Environment Agency.

“They’re keen because we need to move water from the west of the country to the east. It’s an unfortunate fact that when water descends on East Anglia it immediately rushes off into the North Sea.

“It’s almost essential looking to the future we can create this water movement through our canal network. It’s a far bigger concern than a recreational issue.

“It’s actually about preserving our supply and increasing our access to water throughout the whole of the eastern area. It couldn’t be more important.”

Conservative Clifton, Henlow and Langford councillor Richard Wenham said: “It’s really important and links in to climate change. It’s not just the Grand Union through Leighton-Linslade, but about the wider canal infrastructure.

“Waterways play a part in moving goods around in a climate efficient manner, but also remain a key part of our transport system.” Councillors agreed the motion.