BE PATIENT is the message from officials preparing to launch the £26million canal regeneration project this summer.

After British Waterways withdrew from the canals partnership last year, officials have been working busily behind the scenes to get work back on course.

Now the new team, led by Stroud District Council, is asking the public to persevere as planning progresses ahead of the launch at Stonehouse.

Project manager Paul Coupe said: "Our message to people is just be patient.

"We are trying to get people to understand that before starting the work there are literally hundreds of issues to manage.

"A huge amount has been achieved already and when work starts on the ground this year it is going to be a great confidence boost."

The project concerns phase 1A of the renovation between Stonehouse Ocean and Brimscombe Port.

Initial work will focus on a 1.2km stretch on the Stroudwater Canal between Ocean and Hayward’s Bridge near Bridgend.

Officials have reviewed British Waterways’ studies for the project to decide what needs to be done and have drawn up a rough timetable for delivery.

They have also started looking at the broad issues and risks they will face, such as finance, the environment, technical issues, health and safety and planning.

Mr Coupe has appointed consultants to begin work on engineering and environmental planning.

Over the next few months, the depths of silt along the waterway will be measured to predict how many thousand tonnes will need to be dredged.

A consultant will also analyse the silt at different depths for contaminants such as fuel or other hazardous substances.

This will help decide whether the dredgings can be spread as fertiliser on nearby farmland or whether they must be disposed in landfill.

Mr Coupe is seeking landowners within a 10-mile radius of the canal to accept the silt free-of-charge, where it would act as a soil improver and be a greener alternative to chemical fertilisers.

Under the current schedule, vegetation clearance would take place along the banks in late summer at the end of the bird-nesting season. Workmen would start dredging in winter at Bridgend to help residents in the flood-prone area and they would complete the section in about three to four months.

Members of the Cotswold Canals Trust, who are currently restoring an old dredger with the help of a grant from SDC, will help with ongoing dredging.

Meanwhile volunteers would help strengthen banks and improve some of the footpath.

Work would start in October or November to replace Upper Mills Bridge with an arched concrete crossing to allow boats to pass under.

A six-month project to replace the bridge on the A46 at Wallbridge is also planned to start in January.

Last week, excavation work started at Gough’s Orchard Lock on the Thames and Severn Canal at Brimscombe. The first phase of the canal regeneration will cost an estimated £26million, which is equal to the funds available at present.

Mr Coupe, who expects a grant of £11.9million from the Heritage Lottery Fund to be signed in the near future, is also seeking additional funding from other sources to offset the risk.

The first phase of the regeneration is expected to last about four years.