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Study set to take place on future of Neath and Tennant canals

Aberdulais Aqueduct (Pic: Inland Waterways Association)

A STUDY is set to take place into the future of the Neath and Tennant canals over the coming months, after funding was secured by the council as part of plans to develop its Canal Connections project.

The announcement was made by the council, after it secured funding of £113,850 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund’s Heritage Places initiative.

A council spokesperson said the money will go towards “a comprehensive options appraisal study” into the canals, which will look at ways to regenerate them, as well as what they can offer to the people and communities of Neath Port Talbot.

They said: “The study will be part of the phased long-term Canal Connections project working to secure additional funding to regenerate the canal system in a sustainable way into an accessible community asset for active travel and recreation, establishing it as a heritage destination which connects local communities.

“The two canals are heritage rich, containing three scheduled monuments, a large number of Grade II listed-buildings, 27 buildings/structures of local interest and a conservation area (Neath Canal Depot).

“The canals enable residents to reconnect with nature and the communities along its length, linking the town centre to valley areas.

There is a recognition of the importance of these spaces on people’s health and wellbeing as these waterways can be improved to provide clean, green spaces for local leisure activity where rich biodiversity thrives.”

The plans come just months after the popular waterways were placed under threat, as council members setting the budget debated ending contracts worth around £135,000 per year to retain a public access along the towpath.

However, after much debate during the scrutiny process this proposal was removed, along with other measures that could have included switching off street lights at certain times.

The Neath Canal was first completed in 1795, with extensions added from Neath to Giant’s Grave a year later, and further private extensions, including the Jersey Canal reaching Briton Ferry by 1842.

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Speaking about the plans, Neath Port Talbot Council’s cabinet member for nature, tourism and wellbeing, Cllr Cen Phillips said: “Our canals are a fantastic resource both in terms of heritage and wellbeing and we are grateful for the financial backing coming from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for this important project.”

Cllr Jeremy Hurley added: “Greater use of these canals can bring really positive impacts for the health and lives of all those who live in and around them and they can also attract people into the county borough improving the health of our economy.”

Sue O’Hare, chair of the navigation committee for the Inland Waterways Association (IWA), said she was delighted by the positive work to preserve the area’s canals.

She said: “In January IWA wrote to Neath Port Talbot Council urging them to recognise the value of public access to whole length of the Neath and Tennant canals. We are therefore delighted by this positive development and look forward to contributing to the study to help ensure the canals’ future.

“They serve as vital active travel routes, benefiting the environment, economy, and local communities. We urge the council to prioritise the preservation of Aberdulais Aqueduct, a scheduled ancient monument threaten with demolition, and work with Natural Resources Wales to ensure its restoration as part of wider flood management plans.”