VOLUNTEERS have been given a £4 million boost to help reinstate a length of canal which was lost to road builders 50 years ago.

Cotswold Canals Trust has been awarded vital funds by Highways England to restore parts of the Stroudwater Navigation including the waterway, locks, bridges and wetlands which were destroyed when the A38/A419 roundabout and M5 were built in the late 1960s west of Stonehouse.

A five mile section of canal between Thrupp and Stonehouse has already been restored and Stroud District Council, Cotswold Canals Trust and partners are working on connecting that stretch to the nation’s inland waterway network at Saul.

After winning £872,000 of development funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund last year, it will find out early next year whether it will receive a further £9 million to fully restore the stretch between Stonehouse and Saul.

The £4m from the Highways England Environmental Designated Funds Scheme was welcomed by Jim White, chair of Cotswold Canals Trust.

“The Highways England award is extremely welcome and will significantly progress the overall project by bringing forward several of the major engineering tasks in the programme,” he said.

The work will enhance the cultural heritage and historic features near to the M5 and A38 and increase biodiversity with more than 30 hectares of wildlife habitats and improved flood prevention measures. Much of the work will be done by volunteers.

The Cotswold Canals Trust aims to restore the Cotswold Canals as a navigable route from the River Severn to the River Thames.

The ‘missing mile’ at Junction 13 of the M5 forms part of the larger four mile long project, Cotswold Canals Connected.

This was awarded a Stage 1 National Lottery Heritage Fund grant in 2018 to prepare surveys, detailed designs, costings and project plans.

A Stage 2 grant application will be prepared in the autumn 2019.

The overall project cost is estimated to be £23.4 million. Success in this HLF application is partly dependent on raising the outstanding ‘funding gap’ of over £1 million.

The Canals Trust is co-leading the project with SD as the accountable body.