Next steps for project to rebuild last Montgomery Canal bridge blockage.

IMG_2979 - Schoolhouse bridge, gate and people

RESTROATION of the Montgomery Canal has taken another step forward with the Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust’s application for planning permission to rebuild Schoolhouse Bridge, the last road blockage in Shropshire.

For the last three years volunteers from the local canal groups working together under the banner Restore the Montgomery Canal! have been planning to remove the obstruction, raising funds and designing a new road bridge. The planning application is a vital step in reopening this section of the Montgomery Canal.

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With plans advancing the project team is looking to recruit volunteers to join the project team as project manager, site manager and general foreman. Their role will be to work with the existing members of the team to plan the site works and then to manage construction next summer. They say that these part-time posts would ideally suit a retired person or possibly someone self-employed who would like something worthwhile between other jobs.

Michael Limbrey, chairman of the Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust, said, “For the last few years volunteers of the Shropshire Union Canal Society have been restoring the derelict canal to Crickheath Basin with the support of the National Lottery Heritage Fund. But Crickheath is not a real canal destination so the local canal groups have been working together as Restore the Montgomery Canal! to carry the restoration further. Schoolhouse Bridge is the first project for the appeal: our plan is to rebuild the bridge next summer using volunteers as much as possible – that way we can keep the cost down. We have raised most of what the new bridge will cost but we are still looking for donations so we can reach our target.

“It is probably sixty years since Schoolhouse Bridge was knocked down and rebuilding it is vital to the restoration. We think it could cost up to a million pounds to use contractors but with volunteers, we hope to rebuild the bridge for a third of that figure. The bridge must, of course, be finished to highway standards acceptable to Shropshire Council and at the same time meet the requirements of the Canal & River Trust.

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“Our Restore the Montgomery Canal! appeal has been supported by charitable trusts and private donors, many of whom are making regular payments to our appeal and at the same time, our civil engineering volunteers have been working on the detailed design for the bridge, using surveyors and consultants.

“This is probably the most significant volunteer-led project of the Montgomery restoration. Our volunteer team has been working for three years with plans to rebuild the bridge, with the assistance of consultants and contractors on technical issues from ecology to layout and structure. We are grateful to the Canal & River Trust for help in drawing this information together for the planning application.

“Now we need to build up the volunteer team and we are looking for experienced volunteers to help with project management and the site work over the next eighteen months. This will be a most exciting and worthwhile project, and our volunteers will be achieving a valuable contribution to the canal which will be enjoyed by many for years to come.

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“The new bridge will comprise in-situ and precast concrete elements with reinforced earthworks, road surfacing & drainage, kerbing, safety railing, & bricklaying. The main bridge arch will be designed, fabricated, delivered to site and installed by contractors, other contractors will design and supply supporting gabions and finally, a County Council approved contractor will undertake the road surfacing. With as much work as possible by volunteers, we shall be looking for teams of navvies to join us on one of next summer’s most exciting projects.

“Rebuilding Schoolhouse Bridge will remove a major obstruction to restoration so we will be able to work on the rest of the canal to the Welsh border at Llanymynech – all part of our ambition to reinstate the connection between the national waterway system and the 11 miles of restored canal centred on Welshpool.”

Full details of the posts are on our website www.RestoreTheMontgomeryCanal.uk Donations to help with the project can be made through the website too.

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The project team will welcome help from qualified and experienced volunteers who can help with the construction in 2020. Email contact@montgomerywrtrust.uk.

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