'Catastrophic' Grand Western Canal damage to be repaired
Councillors in Devon plan to dig deep into capital reserves to repair an historic canal and popular tourist attraction which suffered "catastrophic" flood damage.
Devon County Council is pledging up to £3 million to repair and modernise the Grand Western Canal, which breached its banks after two 100ft sections collapsed following two days of torrential rain in November.
Council leader John Hart described the canal as "one of the jewels" of the county and said the money would be included in the authority's capital budget which will be examined next week.
Mr Hart said yesterday: "This is an historic feature with many listed structures along its length – it is a major tourist attraction and vital to the economy and to Devon as a whole.
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"I am awaiting a detailed report on exactly what we can do and what it will cost but I believe the council has a duty to restore the canal and to do that as quickly as possible."
Construction of the Grand Western Canal began in 1810 in a scheme to link the Bristol and the English Channels.
Twenty families were evacuated in Halberton near Tiverton on November 21 when a two-mile section drained through the hole left in the bank, forming a lagoon in surrounding fields.
It is hoped the repairs will be completed in time for the 200th anniversary of the canal in 2014.
Mr Hart said the severe weather had meant the budget had to be rewritten, with £930,000 being reinstated for repairing potholes and other safety defects and a further £300,000 for winter maintenance.
Mr Hart claimed repairs over two winters had been set back by the recent flooding, but added: "There is no possibility to make any savings in this area – it would just not be prudent."