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40 tonnes of silt removed by hand from Grand Western Canal

Tuesday, 5 March 2024 10:11

By Bradley Gerrard, local democracy reporter

Lowdwells Lock on the Grand Union Canal (Image courtesy Devon County Council)

It's cleared one tub at a time

Work to remove material from a culvert of the Grand Western Canal has almost finished, with some 40 tonnes removed by hand.

The scheme, which has seen workers take out the rock and solidified silt one plastic garden tub at a time, aims to reduce the chances of nearby properties flooding again.

The build-up of material in Lowdwells culvert led to significant floods at either end last summer, prompting efforts by the canal’s joint advisory committee (JAC) to arrange for its clearance.

The culvert stretches for 130 metres and provides an important part of flood mitigation infrastructure in the area.

The JAC, which is chaired alternately by a Devon County Council or Mid Devon District Council member each year, said the focus now is on making improvements to ditches and highway culverts at the outlet end to reduce flood risk in that area.

“Designs have been drawn up by Devon County Council’s bridges and structures engineers, who are awaiting confirmation of Devon capital funding before proceeding with organising this work,” a JAC report says.

Elsewhere, the JAC said large amounts of silt runoff had led to a two-mile section of the canal, centred on Sampford Peverell, being heavily discoloured.

It added that “some hasty improvements” had been made to a nearby housing development after the Grand Western Country Park manager raised concerns with Devon County Council and the Environment Agency.

“But despite this, the problem of siltation of the canal persists,” the JAC report says.

“Although some of the silt from the site has arrived in the canal via erosion into road drainage on Turnpike, the main issue is that the site drainage has been plumbed into an existing drain that runs to the canal from the adjacent 1990s Paullet development.”

The report adds that the volume of silt entering the canal would bring forward the date it would need to be dredged, and the amount of nutrients entering the canal from surrounding farmland would “fuel rapid plant growth over the coming years”.

Maintaining this could become more difficult, especially as Mid Devon is cutting its contribution to the canal’s budget by 15 per cent for the next financial year.

It will now pay £38,250 annually, a drop of £6,750, while Devon County Counci pays £76,000.

Other JAC members include town and parish councils, such as Tiverton and Halberton, as well as environmental groups, such as Devon Wildlife Trust and Inland Waterways Association.

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