The Daventry Canal Arm project was branded a “ludicrous idea” by one councillor at last week’s Daventry District Council strategy meeting.
Funding for the longstanding project was backed by strategy group members on July 6, which was attended by members of the public who had protested outside the civic buildings, and will now need to be approved at a full council meeting on July 27.
The recommendation made entails spending £8.715m on a canal section measuring 1,230 metres starting on the western side of Northern Way, a mooring basin and a footbridge from the underpass from Southbrook to the northern side of the canal.
Labour Councillor Wendy Randall addressed the strategy meeting and, before calling the Canal Arm a ludicrous idea, expressed her concerns over broken assurances that the project would never be funded by public money.
She said: “Every time we have discussed this it’s always been about investors coming on board. Never have I heard it mentioned about us using any of our budget.
“Our local MP, Chris Heaton-Harris, is president of the Canal Trust. He has always maintained that this canal would never, ever be funded by public money, it would always be from investors.
“They’ve been actively going out, we have as well I assume, to try and find investors for this project and failed. “Why? Why have we got no investors wanting to invest. Maybe because they see that it’s a ludicrous idea.”
Earlier, Conservative Councillor Colin Poole had opened the discussion on the Canal Arm, listing its potential benefits to the town.
Part of the recommendation made by the strategy group includes the intention to secure an inclined plane boat lift, and Cllr Poole cited the 150,000 annual visitors to the Anderton Boat Lift in Cheshire, and the 400,000 annual vistors to the Falkirk Wheel in Scotland as good examples of canal engineering which have boosted local economies.
Also referenced was the Crick Boatshow attracting 27,500 people.
Cllr Poole said: “I have every confidence that it will do what it says on the tin. It will bring in many hundreds of people, thousands of people, to this area and be the catalyst for the tourist industry to focus on Daventry, to fill our shops, restaurants, cafes, that will be part of the waterspace.”
He added: “The tourist visitor economy is worth billions, absolutely billions and I want it for Daventry so we are able to regenerate areas like Southbrook and parts of The Grange.
“We need money in this town, we can’t supply it all from the district council and a way forward is to bring the money into the town.”
Regarding the lack of investment in the project Cllr Poole put it to the meeting that the recommendation would help secure any future funds as it would mean the project would be certain to start.