SHIP Inn site is key to unlocking Stonehouse’s potential, writes reader Deborah Curtis.

There is a lot of discussion at the moment about the future economic prosperity of Britain’s market towns and the need to re-energise the country’s high streets.

Vision, flexibility and the ability to adapt in a changing world will be the key factors in meeting the challenges that lie ahead.

And with change and challenge comes the opportunity to harness the strength and spirit of a community to build an exciting future.

In Stonehouse this is no more evident than the role the former Ship Inn site could play in the future prosperity of the town.

The project to restore the Stroudwater Navigation initially seemed daunting but after years of hard work, its completion is now within reach.

Imaginative regeneration of the Ship Inn site could be a significant piece in the jigsaw that will complete the picture and benefit the whole community.

Developed creatively, it could become the gateway from the canal to Stonehouse town centre, bringing visitors into the High Street while also being part of a wider tourism network which would encompass and benefit the whole of the Stroud Valleys.

People looking for an exciting day out close to home could hire a kayak from a boat hire centre on the redeveloped site, paddle up the canal to Stroud, have tea and cake in Stroud town centre before getting the train back to Stonehouse.

Walkers could make the trip in reverse: starting in Painswick, and stopping for lunch in Stroud, before striding out along the canal towpath to Stonehouse for coffee or a meal in the town and then heading back to Stroud by train.

The possibilities of combining the canal, rail, footpath and cycling networks to enjoy a great family day out are limitless but people need places to stop, sit, enjoy refreshments or nip to the loo.

If that can be combined with opportunities to learn about the history and heritage of the area, so much the better, and all of this and more could be accomplished on the Ship Inn site if we all work together.

This patch of rubble and weeds by the canal is of major strategic importance to the whole of the Stroud Valleys and it could offer so much if the opportunities are grasped now.

It could host a satellite of an already established waterways museum, or a museum devoted to the industrial heritage and transport network in Stonehouse and surrounding area could be developed.

There could be a café, a small park, workshops encouraging traditional crafts.

It could be run as a community enterprise by a community committed its success.

This land is our opportunity to be visionary.

It should be considered as a vital part of the wider regeneration of the Stroudwater Navigation and it could be redeveloped for the benefit of not just the community in Stonehouse but for everyone in Stroud District and all the visitors who would be drawn in to enjoy these wonderful amenities.

There must be a way forward that works for all – Stonehouse stands proud on the strength of its community; and the passion and commitment which the residents, business people, community organisations and civic leaders have in their town is humbling and inspiring.

The possibilities offered by this site to the prosperity of the wider community must be explored now and all stakeholders should be encouraged to work in partnership with vision, flexibility, co-operation and openness to reach the best outcome for everyone – especially the young people of the area who could have a space to use and be proud of for years to come.

Deborah Curtis