Making it up as he paddles along

Some organisations make odd choices for the people they put forward as their public representatives. Take the Swindon branch of the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust for example. Rather than putting forward someone with a robust knowledge of both the canal’s history and the current proposals for its reinstatement, they instead put forward their chairman, Mr Cartwright, whose knowledge of both seems to be distinctly lacking. Consider his comments on the canal history.

From an historical point of view the reason the canal was closed was because of its threat to health.

Err… no. After it closed, the canal was filled-in by the council on health grounds, but reason it closed was because it was a commercial failure, only making money for a short time during the construction of the railway and railway works in Swindon. Despite that short period of profit, neither its original promoters, nor its subsequent owners, recovered the money they invested. But enough history, what about today?

There is no £50m, so if the canal is not built the money will not be available to anywhere else. The regeneration of Swindon has been priced and the canal would add two pence in the pound to the cost.

Again, incorrect. If the canal plans were not there, the council could choose to levy a charge on developers to support other improvements in the town centre. As to the significance of the cost, Mr Cartwright should have a read of the implementation section of Swindon’s Central Area Action Plan. That identifies the cost to the council of developments in the town centre as £145m. That makes the cost of the canal thirty four pence in the pound, rather more than the two pence that Mr Cartwright suggests. Even adding in the boroughwide costs of the town centre redevelopment only brings the proportion down to fourteen pence in the pound.

If even its most ardent enthusiasts cannot make a coherent argument in support of reinstating the canal, is it in any wonder that so many in Swindon remain sceptical?