Last modified on Thu 25 Jul 2019
Every second Monday of the month, a small group of volunteers meets in the training room of a Birmingham supermarket. They discuss what has long seemed to many of their friends a crazy and probably doomed idea: how to excavate a contaminated 40-year-old waste dump, create an urban marina, restore three miles of derelict canal and build several new bridges and locks.
Last month, however, the meeting of the 18-strong Lapal Canal Trust committee was joyous. After 20 years of trying to restore this short stretch of the 200-year-old Dudley No 2 canal, permission had finally been granted, they were told.
What’s more, a feasibility study showed that the plan – which would link the suburbs of California and Selly Oak by water – could be a catalyst for nothing short of the economic and ecological renaissance of a large area of south Birmingham.
The new canal will generate jobs but also provide space for new houses, as well as pollution-free walking, boating and cycling routes. The marina for 60-100 boats will stimulate businesses and bring in tourists. The wildlife corridor created along the canal will attract herons, otters, fish and waterfowl. And although the whole project will cost about £5m, the study said it would pay for itself in six years.
“It will improve life in the city. It will complete an old canal loop around the city – we owe it to the future to restore it. We have support from business, the community, the university, developers and everyone. No one is objecting and we have nearly raised the first £250,000 – enough to start work,” says the Lapal trust CEO, Hugh Humphreys.