Another important step in the Cotswold Canals Partnership’s restoration of the Cotswold Canals is being taken today (18th September) with construction work getting underway at Oil Mills in Ebley. This initial project covers the £1.3 million restoration of a 650-metre stretch of the Stroudwater Navigation and the restoration of Oil Mills bridge.

This initial project is part of Phase 1a of the full restoration which will cost £24.2million and is itself part of a wider regeneration funding package of £37million. Phase 1a includes the full restoration of a 6½-mile (9½-kilometre) stretch from Brimscombe Port to Stonehouse and a further 4-mile (6km) multi-user path to Saul Junction, due for completion in two years.

The work will be project managed by British Waterways and undertaken by its contractor Morrison Construction. Stroud District Council and British Waterways continue discussions to complete terms of agreement for the completion of Phase 1a of the full restoration.

The Cotswold Canals, formed by the historic waterways of the Stroudwater Navigation and the Thames & Severn Canal, once traversed the Cotswold hills and some of the UK’s most beautiful countryside in Gloucestershire and Wiltshire to link the rivers Severn and Thames.

The project represents a major boost to the area and will act as a catalyst for inward investment and regeneration.

Bruce Hall, Chairman of the Cotswold Canals Trust, says: “This is another exciting day in the long history of this incredible project. A full thirty five years after the first canal enthusiasts got together to start their campaigning and restoration work. When I look back, I heave a huge sigh of relief and think, yes it has all been worth it.”

“The commencement of work at Oil Mills is another step towards the full restoration of the Cotswold Canals,” said Cllr Nigel Studdert-Kennedy, Stroud District Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration. “Once again we are pleased to show what hard work and teamwork can deliver. We are delighted that the Canal Project will now demonstrate to its supporters that it really can happen. The Canal team has every right to be pleased with the fruits of its endeavours. This is very good news for the future of Stroud and of the District.”

It was also announced that British Waterways is going to focus on the restoration of the canals whilst the Council will lead on the restoration and development of Brimscombe Port and plans to appoint a private developer.

The project is backed by a strong community partnership made up of: British Waterways, Cotswold Canals Trust, Cotswold District Council, Cotswold Water Park Society, Environment Agency, Gloucestershire County Council, Gloucestershire First, Gloucestershire Rural Community Council, Inland Waterways Association, Learning & Skills Council, North Wiltshire District Council, South West of England Regional Development Agency, SW Tourism, Stroud District Council, Company of Proprietors of the Stroudwater Navigation, Swindon Borough Council, The Waterways Trust and Wiltshire County Council.

The work getting underway at Oil Mills will restore a 650-metre length of the Stroudwater Navigation and build a new bridge crossing the canal to Snow Mill (aka Oil Mills). Excavation work is expected to be completed in November, following by the bridge in March 2008.

The original hump-backed bridge on the site was removed as part of a road improvement scheme. It will be replaced by a new bridge echoing original designs but able to carry modern traffic levels, using what remains of the original bridge under the road.

The Cotswold Canals Partnership expects to hear later this autumn about its £24million Big Lottery Fund bid which would take the restoration a further 4 miles (six kilometres) from The Ocean to Saul Junction.