Chesterfield Borough Council’s planning committee has given Chesterfield Canal Trust the green light to transform a 1.6-mile section of the historic waterway between Staveley and the edge of Renishaw.
All 14 members of the committee voted to agree with the officers’ recommendation to grant permission with conditions.
Chesterfield Canal Trust amended the original plans for the stretch between Eckington Road and Bellhouse Lane, in Staveley, following negotiations with the high-speed rail company HS2 which initially said the two projects were ‘incompatible’.
Changes include adding an additional lock underneath the existing Eckington Road bridge, allowing the water level to drop to an acceptable level in which it would not pose a flood risk to the proposed HS2 link to a maintenance depot on the old Staveley Works site.
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Marking his approval to the plans, Coun Keith Miles said: “I think this is a brilliant project. It’s another project that puts Chesterfield and Staveley on the map as somewhere you need to visit.
"I fully support the restoration and the officers’ recommendations and finally, good luck to all those involved. I’m just sorry I’m not several years younger as I would certainly be volunteering myself.”
Coun Dean Collins said: “This has a huge impact on my division down in Lowgates and it’s all positive. The comment you get when you see the building work going are all positive comments. It’s great for the area and I move the recommendations.”
The application, which covers the remaining section of the canal’s path within Chesterfield borough, is part of the Canal Trust’s ambitious goal to open up the canal from Chesterfield to the River Trent in time for its 250th anniversary in 2027.
Other amendments to the original plans include a further railway lock, to raise the water level after it has been lowered through the Eckington Road lock, and the construction of an additional rail bridge to allow the proposed HS2 maintenance link and towpath users to cross over the canal.
Coun Maureen Davenport said: “I have absolutely no hesitation in supporting the work that the Canal Society do. Three years ago they obtained a very prestigious award from the Queen for the work they had done up to that point.”
Coun Paul Mann said: “I think this is a key, not just for Chesterfield and Staveley, but for everyone in general and the public are looking forward to it."
Coun Barry Bingham added: “Judging this application on its merits, I think it is absolutely brilliant what they are doing and I just hope I live long enought to see the full restoration of it because if I do and there’s a boat trip from Chesterfield to West Stockwith I’ll be one of the first to book my ticket.
"I think it’s great and it’ll be a great asset for the whole area.”
As a sign of how important the development is to the Trust, last year it appointed George Rogers as development manager – its first ever paid employee.
Speaking on behalf of the Trust, publicity officer Rod Auton gave thanks to Mr Rogers as well as others who have supported plans to restore the canal.
He said: “The Chesterfield Canal Trust is delighted that it has received planning permission to restore the remaining section of the canal that lies within the Chesterfield borough boundary.
"There is still much work to be done until the actual construction can begin, but passing this hurdle is very encouraging.
“The Trust is particularly grateful to all the members of the public, numerous organisations and politicians that have expressed support for the restoration of our beautiful canal. It is particularly indebted to its Development Manager, George Rogers, for the hundreds of hours that he has put into bringing us to this stage.
“This is a large step towards achieving our ultimate ambition of completing the entire restoration of the canal by 2027, the 250th anniversary of its opening.”
Chesterfield Canal originally opened in 1777, running 46 miles from Chesterfield to West Stockwith and on to the River Trent.
It was used to transport various materials such as coal, lead and limestone from Derbyshire, as well as other more general merchandise.
However, in 1909 traffic along the canal started to decline following the introduction of railways and in 1968 only 26 miles of the waterway from Worksop to the River Trent remained navigable.
Since the late 1980s, work has been underway to restore the canal with approximately 8.5 miles left to be restored between Staveley and Kiveton Park – the recently approved planning application relating to the remaining section within the Chesterfield borough.