Called Waterway Park for some years

Published: Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Your recent article 'The waterway link is now a park' seems to have completely misunderstood given our current progress on making the link between the Grand Union Canal and the River Great Ouse a reality, writes Jane Hamilton.

The concept of a Waterway Park is not a downgrade from a canal, rather the opposite—and not even a new term. The Bedford and Milton Keynes Waterway Trust and the wider consortium of partners with whom we work, have been calling this ambitious project the Waterway Park for some years.

No direct funding

This is critical to securing support and resources for the project. Whilst there is no direct source of funding for new canals (unlike road and rail) there is increasing emphasis on the importance of green Infrastructure, or GI as it is popularly referred to, and that is exactly what the Waterway Park is.

The term Park shows that this is so much more than a wide-beam canal and reflects the fact that over 90% of users never go onto the water. Our Waterway Park will be for the entire community—not just boaters, but for people who want to:

  • Walk alongside it for exercise
  • Take children for family days out and to learn about water safety and nature
  • Use it as a route for cycling, horse riding and walking between Bedford and Milton Keynes, avoiding the busy roads.
  • Fishing
  • Canoe (possibly including slalom), paddleboard and use other small boats.

Blue/green corridor

The aim is to create a strategic blue/green corridor between Bedford and Milton Keynes, increasing biodiversity, providing a link under the M1 as well as providing a green lung for an increasingly built-up area. For all of these the navigable waterway is at the very heart of the project.

The project is going full steam ahead. It is increasingly being recognised, both locally by the councils along the route and nationally by the National Infrastructure Commission as an example of creating new green/blue infrastructure, something which is vital in creating a sense of place for new housing in the area.

Two development schemes

In October two development schemes, at Campbell Park in Milton Keynes and Marston Vale Business Park in Bedford, both of which will provide sections of the waterway, were given the go ahead. We continue to work very closely with partners, including the Bedford & Milton Keynes Waterway Trust, a limited company registered in England no. 5760839. Registered Office: 30 St John Street, Newport Pagnell MK16 8HJ, a charitable incorporated organisation registered charity no 1114294, and Canal and River Trust and the Environment Agency, to ensure the project is embedded in planning for the wider Oxford to Cambridge corridor.

Far from a downgrade, our ambitions are undimmed. We are determined to make this new navigable waterway a reality!