New waterways plan would make Spalding a hub for tourism and economic development
An ambitious plan that could boost tourism and revenue by creating a new waterway link through South Holland could be on the cards.
The project could see holidaymakers and boaters making the most of the River Welland, with plans to link up 50 miles of existing waterways with a new estimated 12 miles of new channels.
This means it will be possible to get directly from Boston to Peterborough, and vice versa, for the first time by boat - without having to go into The Wash.
It is an idea which has been discussed previously - the project formerly called the Fens Waterway Link - but revised plans mean it is now viable, say those involved.
Renamed the Boston to Peterborough Wetland Corridor, the project is a working partnership between the Inland Waterways Association (IWA), the Environment Agency and Lincolnshire County Council.
"I think it is a great idea and will be really beneficial to us, not just in terms of tourism and the local economy, but also the health benefits. We are talking about people getting out walking, cycling, canoeing and boating, and enjoying the flora and fauna." - Coun Nick Worth
David Pullen, chairman of the IWA East Midlands region, said: "At the moment, to get from Boston to Peterborough, you would have to go through Lincoln, Newark, Nottingham, Leicester and Peterborough in theory and practice - but that's only for very intrepid boaters."
And while it's not recommended, the other option would be via The Wash, entering the Great Ouse at King's Lynn, then via Sutton Bridge and onto the Nene.
"Economic development is a major part of this new waterway," said Mr Pullen.
"It is about encouraging people to come to South Holland to invest or live here and create jobs."
The plan aims to incorporate and link the Black Sluice Navigation (South Forty Foot Drain), the River Glen, the River Welland and the River Nene.
The IWA is in talks with South Holland District Council, and has the support of Economic Development and Inward Investment Manager Nigel Burch and Deputy Leader Coun Nick Worth.
In May 2016, the IWA brought canal boats into Spalding, which they moored on the River Welland. This was for a meeting at Ayscoughfee Hall to discuss viable options for the new waterway link. It also proved that the boats could navigate the bridges in town, including High Bridge. They repeated this in May last year.
Mr Burch said that 'now the IWA have picked up the baton', he feels things could really move forward and although no timescale has been drawn up for the project, he hopes we could see movement on the plans within the next five years.
That includes events such as a proposed IWA Trail Boat Festival in Crowland, discussed at the recent parish council meeting.
Coun Worth said: "I think it is a great idea and will be really beneficial to us, not just in terms of tourism and the local economy, but also the health benefits. We are talking about people getting out walking, cycling, canoeing and boating, and enjoying the flora and fauna.
"The local trade will possibly pick up on that in selling bikes and canoes; and local pubs and businesses will benefit.
"I am interested in the timescale but it will be nice to see it happening sooner, rather than later."
Major investment into work on flood defences in Boston have also helped to push plans for the project forward.
Anthony Grunwell, operations manager for Spalding Water Taxi, which offers self-drive trips along the Welland, and a taxi service between the town and Springfields, said: "We find it very exciting that there is a possibility of the waterways opening up. "At the moment we are limited in that there are only around 17 navigable miles we can use.
"Once you get past Crowland, about an hour up the river, you hit sandbanks and in the other direction there are the lock gates (at West Marsh Road)."
The IWA plans to form a charitable trust to move the project forward and is calling on anybody interested to get in touch.
For more information email: firstname.lastname@example.org or Chris Howes (IWA Peterborough Branch) at email@example.com