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Canal to be restored after 30 year battle

PUBLISHED: 16:42 13 May 2009 | UPDATED: 10:41 23 August 2010

EXCITED: Chairman Brian  Macknish and member David Rouse.

EXCITED: Chairman Brian Macknish and member David Rouse.

THE chairman of a group campaigning for more than 30 years for the restoration of an historic canal route is delighted the Government has agreed funding for the scheme. Nearly 1,000 metres of the Thames and Medway Canal, built in the early 1800s, will

THE chairman of a group campaigning for more than 30 years for the restoration of an historic canal route is "delighted" the Government has agreed funding for the scheme.

Nearly 1,000 metres of the Thames and Medway Canal, built in the early 1800s, will be dredged and a pumping system installed to maintain water levels.

Restoration work is due to start on the first section of the canal, which runs from Mark Lane, Gravesend, to Shornemead Crossing, later this year.

The funding is part of a £2 million scheme agreed by the Homes and Communities Agency, which as the Reporter revealed last month, will upgrade Gravesend Promenade, restore the sea wall and create a shingle beach.

Brian Macknish, the chairman of the Thames and Medway Canal Association, which formed in 1976, said: "The group are all delighted at the news.

"We have been lobbying, profile raising and doing voluntary activities at the canal for years.

"It is wonderful that the value of the canal, a piece of history, a recreational resource and an area of wildlife has been recognised."

The canal was originally seven miles long and cut across the neck of the Hoo peninsula linking the River Thames at Gravesend to the River Medway at Strood.

A two-mile tunnel was built linking Higham to Strood, and was the second longest canal tunnel to be built in the UK.

In 1846, the canal company sold the tunnel and a railway line was built in it and the canal was filled in, and the remainder of the canal, between Higham and Gravesend was used until 1934.

Mr Macknish, from Culverstone, added: "We do get some boats in the canal at the moment, but parts of it are only 3ft deep and over run with weeds.

"With the work that will be carried out we hope to have the canal at a depth of six or seven feet, and 40ft wide.

"The first section of the canal runs alongside the RSPB nature reserve at Shorne Marshes, and footpaths and a cycle route between Gravesend and Higham.

"We hope it will make this area very attractive for walking and cycling with a boating option too."

Council leader Mike Snelling said: "The council believes that the river is the borough's greatest single asset. The restoration of the Prom and the canal has always been on our wish-list.

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