David Morris MP has held an Adjournment Debate in the House of Commons to discuss funding for Canals and to launch his campaign to re-open the Northern Reaches.
Speaking During the debate David Morris MP stated that his interest in the Northern reaches had been there since 2011 he said:
‘I draw the House’s attention to the funding of canals, particularly in an area of my locality called the Northern Reaches, just north of Carnforth in a place called Tewitfield—a place I know very well. Back in January 2011, I tabled an early-day motion highlighting the need to restore the canal system between Carnforth and Kendal known as the Northern Reaches. The EDM read:
“That this House notes that the Northern Reaches is an historic waterway begun in 1792 linking Preston, Lancaster, Kendal and the Lune Estuary via a branch to Glasson Dock; further notes that since the Second World War the waterway has declined and parts have been filled in; applauds the work of the Lancaster Canal Restoration Partnership in working towards reopening the Northern Reaches; and calls on the whole community to support this important project, rebuilding a unique part of the UK’s industrial heritage.”
As the Northern Reaches we not in David’s Constituency he explained how he has been watching the volunteers efforts from afar, however as the Northern reaches is coming into the new Morecambe and Lunesdale Constituency David is now able to become formally involved in the efforts. David said:
‘I met the volunteers and explained that, over the years, I have been watching their amazing efforts and progress in restoring the local waterways. I showed them the research I have commissioned over the years from the House of Commons Library and the obscure books I have collected about the Northern Reaches, as little is known other than the rumour that it was filled in with rubble from the building of the M6 motorway back in the 1950s and ’60s.
The volunteers have an encyclopaedic knowledge, and they have already restored a significant portion of the reaches over the years at the Kendal end. Post covid, the jobs, tourism and general wellbeing that can be realised by the restoration of this facility are now needed more than ever, especially with the Eden Project on the horizon in my constituency, as the original towpath can be reutilised as a walking path or rural cycle lane concocting Lancaster and Kendal, which fits in with my holistic vision of the green tech and tourism that my area can offer to the rest of the UK.
The volunteers I spoke to were astonished that the “Eden MP”, as I was flatteringly called, has been deeply interested in their cause. They were also amazed that I had already secured a debate in the House of Commons on canal funding in the week of the King’s Speech’
Speaking on the history of the Northern Reaches David Morris MP said:
The canal between Preston and Tewitfield remained classed as a “cruising waterway”, whereas the Northern Reaches was deemed to be “remainder waterway”, following a 1955 Act of Parliament, and the canal was carved up by further road transport. If restored, the Northern Reaches would connect to the Millness to Stainton section of the Lancaster canal. The name Northern Reaches refers to a 14 mile stretch of the Lancaster canal that was isolated during the 1960s when the M6 motorway was built. Importantly, the Fraenkel report recommended that the towpath be kept clear from the amenity development by local authorities at this time. However, with hindsight, most will see all this as cultural vandalism. Obviously, I would like to ask my friend the Minister whether there are any costings on the reinstatement of the Northern Reaches canal network. The Lancaster Canal Trust stated in its 2019 restoration report that it had raised £13,000 for the restoration of the “first furlong” of the Northern Reaches, which I will talk about later. Are any further funds in place to improve the towpath in its entirety, as outlined in the 1950s Fraenkel report?
The Lancaster Canal Trust is planning a strategy to maximise the opportunities to secure the funding likely to be required to make the restoration of the Northern Reaches to Kendal a reality. Originally founded to oppose the closure of the canal to navigation in the 1960s, the trust is now dedicated to its restoration. I believe that work is complete to restore the “first furlong”, a 200 metre section between bridges 172 and 173, near Stainton. I believe further works are being planned for a further 400 metres. This trust is exemplary; it actually gets things done, which I really like to see in my community.
David also highlighted the importance of the Canal system in the UK:
‘Our canals have truly seen a renaissance over the past 70 years, and recovered from the dark days of decline and dereliction of the mid-20th century. With more boats on the waterways and the use of the towpaths more popular than ever, we are seeing their benefits realised on a grand scale once again, repurposed for leisure and recreation, health and wellbeing. That must be made permanent.
Canals play a wider role. At a time when our water supply has never been more critical, because of our changing climate and the increased risk of drought, the trust’s canals improve the resilience of the nation’s water security. They have inadvertently come back into fashion because of global warming. They currently move water around the country to support water supplies for approximately 5 million people, including those in Bristol and parts of Cheshire, and the trust can support more such water transfer schemes.’
In conclusion David said:
Our inland waterways are a national treasure and a critical part of our national infrastructure. As outlined, I would like to see the Northern Reaches restored in its entirety, but I realise that it has taken the brave volunteers decades to preserve and improve in part what is already there. Will the Minister write to me with an estimated cost for the full restoration and a breakdown of what can be achieved in the short term, for example with the towpath? What funding streams are available to assist the trust and volunteer groups?
Responding to the debate, Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minister Trudy Harrison MP highlighted some of the funding that could be available for these types of projects. She said:
‘I draw the hon. Gentleman’s attention to the National Lottery Heritage Fund, which has provided £454 million recently to a couple of projects. Moreover, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, through levelling-up funding, has provided more than £33 million to another couple of projects. That is perhaps an area that my hon. Friend could also look into. I know very well that he has previously been incredibly successful in securing levelling-up funding. As a champion of the Morecambe Eden project, I understand that £50 million has been raised through the levelling-up project in his area, so I am well aware of his capability in that field’
‘The Canal & River Trust reports that there were nearly 900 million visits to its canals last year, many of which were repeat visits—with around 10 million individual users each month. That gives us a real sense of the scale and popularity of our canals.’
‘I will write to my hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lunesdale with the specifics of any funding analysis that has been done. As I say, I am not the Minister responsible for inland waterways, but I will take the time to write a detailed analysis if I can. I may require further information from the volunteers and the partnerships that he mentioned’
The Minister also indicated her support for David’s proposals and commended the volunteers for their work so far:
‘To focus on the project that my hon. Friend is progressing, which is the most important thing, I cannot commend too highly the volunteers and their ambitions for their area. The project has such importance for the local community, because it will not only bring back something that was last used in 1947, but will bring benefits such as tackling climate change, improving people’s physical and mental wellbeing, and supporting biodiversity. That is absolutely what we should be doing. It supports the targets of the environmental improvement plan and the work of groups such as Sustrans, public rights of way and national trails. We all recognise the benefits of being near water and appreciating nature—and, goodness me, we all need to get a little bit more active.
I confirm that I will write to my hon. Friend with the detailed analysis of the funding for the project so far, and I will take a look at other funding streams as well. Most importantly, I look forward to visiting him, perhaps in Kendal, to congratulate the volunteers on their hard work and success to date. It is brilliant to end today’s sitting with some wonderful good news about a really successful big society mission’