1 The Mission
To restore to full working order as a navigable waterway, the derelict canal lying dormant between the Hawne Basin in Halesowen and the Western Portal of the Lapal Tunnel in Lapal.
This is to be done under the aegis of the Lapal Canal Trust (LCT) whose full Vision is the complete restoration of the entire ‘5-mile’ length of disused canal between Hawne Basin in Halesowen and the W&B in Selly Oak, via a new ‘Over The Top’ route to replace the derelict Lapal Tunnel.
When completed, this will have restored the ’11-mile’ Dudley Number TwoCanal to its former strategic importance as a Navigation along a levelwaterway, without locks.
The entire length of derelict line – now known as The Lapal Canal, since the formation of The Lapal Canal Trust in 1990 – conveniently divides intothreerestoration Projects;
This Plan for the restoration of the Western Approach (the “Halesowen Canal”) is one ‘third’ of the full Vision.
It was prepared by the Western Approach Planning/Projects Group (WAPG; a sub-Committee of LCT) to indicate that restoration and subsequent preservation of the canal is a viable Mission.
However, all recommendations contained herein are made in good faith andare subject to the future outcomes of detailed engineering surveys, public consultation, and the availability of sufficient funds.
(The LCT has a complementary plan for the Selly Oak Extension Canal; the “Eastern Approach Plan”)
2 The Western Strategy :
Translating the general strategy onto the Western Approach Project, a furtherthree principal sub-divisions of the incremental task have been identified, for restoration in the phased order;
These principal divisions are fully defined and further sub-divided (e.g. LW1N)in a separate table .
In practice, each of the above sections may be sub-divided to allow pre-restoration works to be targeted at specific issues prior to full restoration. In particular, the Leasowes Embankment has already been the subject of (incomplete) restoration activities, towards liberating it as an interim linear lake to the add to the recreational amenities of the district.
2.2 The Towpath Issue
2.2.1 Towpath Strategy
It is of considerable importance that pedestrian access is preserved and enhanced, while remaining friendly to wheelchairs, prams and pedal cycles (but not motor-cycles). Integration with the towpath of the restored canal would provide appropriate enhancement and the “wheels access” requirement can be achieved if all bridges have gradual-incline ramp approaches. Fortunately, in all cases, there is sufficient space for bridges to be designed to meet this requirement. Towpaths, being perfectly level and flat, are particularly friendly to wheelchair users and provide a specific recreational amenity for such persons and their companions.
2.2.2 The Lapal Greenway
2.3 Amenity and Safety
Many of the adjoining and nearby properties include young families and the issue of water safety will be uppermost in the minds of many residents, now and in the future. The need to allay such fears is not unique to this particular canal restoration project, but the LCT is developing a Schools Liaison programme. The provision of lifebuoys at regular intervals along the towpath would be prudent. These could be co-sited with litter bins (and ramblers’ “you-are-here” maps).
When ‘switching’ the towpath in places, and reconstructing it elsewhere, it may be expedient to bury uncommitted ducting in anticipation that it may be adopted asWayleave that accrues significant income. Already the W&B canal has a Telecommunications Fibre service installed beneath its towpath as part of a major UK “superhighway” provision. As that Network expands over the next decade or so, the entire Dudley No 2 Canal might be deemed to be a strategic branch and the income from such a Wayleave provision could be beneficial in offsetting some of the restoration costs (of the Lapal ‘half’ and the routine maintenance costs of the viable western ‘half’).
2.5 The Water Management Issue
When restored, a previously derelict canal presents an additional load on existing water supplies due to its evaporation and seepage losses. Although modern restoration methods ensure that seepage is negligible, evaporation is inevitable (particularly in hot, dry weather). However, the restored Lapal Canal need not contribute to such losses if it incorporates the natural water supply of the Tunnel and also the Stonehouse Brook, in the Eastern Approach. Indeed, British waterways have recognised both sources as ‘net providers’ of water for the adjacent canal system.
- Tunnel Restoration/Woodgate Valley??
(To be updated)
Whatever strategy is eventually adopted for restoration of the Tunnel, consideration must be given to the access requirements for heavy plant and the extraction of spoil. Therefore, the LCT-WAPG recommends that the Abbey Lands – Fish Ponds Bend Sub-section might not be restored until the Tunnel restoration is undertaken. In turn, this suggests that restoration of the entire Phase-3 project – Heritage Flank – might be deferred until a provisional Plan has been formulated for the Tunnel, St Mary’s approach and the A456 crossing provision.
- Preparatory Actions – “PR”
Each phased restoration project requires substantial funds that are not yet available. Many potential sources of funding are only made available to projects that are supported by local residents. Given the large number of houses that flank this canal, a substantial public relations exercise is being carried out, particularly towards those residents who have concerns over the safety of a restored Halesowen Canal.
- Recipients of Plan
Part of the rationale for constructing this preliminary Plan, and pledging to revise and maintain it as an “organic” document reflecting the latest developments, is that it may be offered to the local companies and other interested parties in and for the locality. These will include Residents’ Associations, “Friends” of local amenities (e.g. Halesowen Abbey Trust, Halesowen Township Council), Neighbourhood Watches, Youth Groups, Schools, Councillors, MPs, and to private individuals who join the Trust (as part of their Welcome Pack).
- 6. Acknowledgements
This Plan was produced by The Western Approach Projects Group (“WAPG”; a Sub-committee of The Lapal Canal Trust). Particular thanks are extended to David Carson for his preparation of this material.