Canal strategy needed but consultation is over-complex: our response to council’s draft strategy

Stroud District Green Party has provided feedback on Stroud District Council’s consultation on its draft Canal Strategy. https://www.stroud.gov.uk/canalstrategy

We acknowledged the importance of a strategy for the canal corridor to guide future developments, and one that recognises its current and potential benefit for the well-being of residents of the district. It is essential for the transition to a low carbon economy, the ecosystem services and (most importantly) as a wildlife reserve that provides crucial habitat continuity and connection through both our urban and rural areas. 

We supported the regeneration of the canals from Saul Junction to Brimscombe Port. 

However, we were very concerned that the biodiversity indicators in the strategy do not fully recognise the richness of the ecology in parts of the canal corridor from Brimscombe Port to Sapperton, and the rarity of many of the species and habitats it hosts. 

Finally, we had severe reservations over the way that the consultation had been undertaken, and were very concerned that the vast majority of residents won’t have been able to form a coherent view on it due to the complexity of the presentation. 

Our full response on canal strategy.

“We acknowledge the importance of a strategy for the canal corridor to guide future developments, and one that recognises its current and potential benefit for the well-being of residents of the district, the transition to a low carbon economy, the ecosystem services and (most importantly) as a wildlife reserve that provides crucial habitat continuity and connection through both our urban and rural areas.

We appreciate the Council’s efforts to make the strategy accessible to our communities through a variety of media, but are very concerned that the vast majority of residents will still not have been able to form a coherent view on it, due to its complexity and the technical language and imagery used by the consultants. We feel a new, community-driven approach is required, that would enable our residents to engage with the future of the canal corridor. At a minimum, in-person events should be held to allow the Council to listen to residents, landowners and professionals, talk about their vision for the various segments of the corridor.

We appreciate the consideration of the carbon impacts of proposed development, and the use of a research-based tool to assess the carbon consequences of parts of the strategy. However, the Impact Tool is designed for use at the parish level, not for project assessment e.g. it takes account of all the emissions from that parish, most of which will be unrelated to the canal corridor and  which changes along the canal corridor may only have a minor influence. And any such tool’s results are only valid based on today’s data and technologies – for a strategy that is to be used over the long term, it should be stated within the strategy that assessment of the carbon impacts of development will be required at time of application.

We support the regeneration of the canals from Saul Junction to Brimscombe Port. We support and recognise the current exceptional value of the canal corridor between Brimscombe and Sapperton as a biodiversity hotspot and as a corridor for quiet and restorative leisure activities for walkers and nature lovers.

We are very concerned that the biodiversity indicators in the strategy do not fully recognise the richness of the ecology in parts of the canal corridor, and the rarity of many of the species and habitats it hosts. The presence of water voles, otters, migratory fish, dippers, some of the rarer bat species and glow worms are just a few examples. This ecological richness is what is truly unique about the Stroud canal corridor, especially east of Brimscombe, and what needs to be further enhanced with additional and connected habitat creation along the length of the corridor.

With that in mind, we would like it recognised that the regeneration of the canal east of Brimscombe, in particular the “Upper Eastern Valley” section between Chalford and Sapperton, would require truly extraordinary efforts to (as required) preserve and enhance the ecology of that valley. Before there was any consideration of regeneration beyond Brimscombe, we would want to see a clear demonstration of enhanced biodiversity, as a result of regeneration, along the canal corridor to that point. We would not support any proposed regeneration that did not fully recognise the ecological value of this section of the corridor, and the consequent obligations with regard to the conservation and promotion of wildlife.

Finally, in Document B here, “Understanding the Canal Corridor” (first page after the title page), we do not consider it appropriate that the Phases of the Cotswold Canals Trust’s regeneration plan are referenced, in particular Phase 3 (east of Brimscombe), as these plans pertain to the Trust and not to the Council.”

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