WORK could begin as early as next year to clear miles of overgrown canal which could eventually link Pocklington back into the region’s historic waterways.
A study into restoring the abandoned section of Pocklington Canal between Canal Head and Melbourne has been given “overwhelming” support by the locals, according to heritage expert Marion Blockley, who has been tasked by British Waterways and the Leader Waterways Partnership to carry out the report.
She hopes to submit it in the coming months and, if approved, work could potentially begin by next summer.
After surveying around 300 people around the town since beginning the report several months ago, she says 99.9 per cent of those asked had given it the thumbs up.
“The support for restoration has been overwhelming, and I’m very excited and impressed by the great deal of interest, to get detailed comments from 300 people is impressive,” she explained.
“It’s one of the best canals for wildlife nationally and has the potential to be remarkable.”
The canal, which was built in 1818 and was operational until 1934, runs for over nine miles through the East Riding eventually meeting with the River Derwent.
In recent years it has become a magnet for wildlife enthusiasts and walkers, yet virtually half of the waterway between Pocklington and Melbourne has silted up and become clogged with weed, despite the best efforts of Pocklington Canal Amenity Society (PCAS).
The local group took over the old waterway in 1969 and helped restore locks and the section between Melbourne and the River Derwent, running regular pleasure boat cruises.
Unable to secure funding for the Pocklington end of the canal, spreading vegetation has meant the stretch is unnavigatable by canal boats and also lacks the clear water that attracts the rare dragonflies and damselflies.
Mrs Blockley hopes this could soon be reversed and hopes funding of up to £1 million could be secured to kick-start the revival.
Natural England has confirmed that the section of the canal is in a declining state and wildlife experts have agreed that work is needed.
She explained: “British Waterways engineers are currently working on costs for dredging and restoration of the locals, this is likely to run into the region of £2 million.
“Realistically, a bid to the Heritage Lottery fund just below £1 million stands more chance of success as it will compete against projects regionally rather than nationally. Any work will have to be carried out in phases and this will also be better for the wildlife.”
While securing funds is key, British Waterways is moving towards a charity status in 2012 and is urging communities to take responsibility for their local waterways, a move that Mrs Blockley is keen on.
She said: “PCAS members are getting older and need help from the younger people - scouts, local schools, other youth organisations and community groups to help bring the canal back to a healthy state with clear water, unclogged by weeds.”
The grand plan has been given the backing of the Mayor of Pocklington, Councillor Graham Perry, who said: “If we could get a complete canal, capable of taking boats the full length, it would really be a beautiful piece of countryside that you could sail through.
“It would be an extra attraction to Pocklington, bring people into the town and be a bonus to the local economy.
“The council would be delighted to support this.”