Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey visited Birmingham yesterday to find out more about the vital role that local people are playing in helping to care for and promote the city’s famous network of canals.
Dr Coffey met staff and volunteers from the Canal & River Trust, the charity that cares for 2,000 miles of the nation’s waterways, during the visit to Birmingham’s canalside and historic Roundhouse.
The Minister heard about how the Trust is working increasingly closely with local communities, helping them to look after and improve their local waterways – with some groups even adopting their nearest stretch of canal or river. Representatives of the Trust explained some of the local initiatives that are taking place in the city to engage with young people and those from a variety of different ethnic backgrounds.
Dr Coffey also met volunteers from the Trust’s Explorers education team, who go into schools and teach youngsters about their local canal heritage and staying safe by the water, and took a tour of the historic Roundhouse next to the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal.
The Canal & River Trust and the National Trust are working together on exciting plans that would see the grade II listed former stables and workshops rejuvenated into a community hub. The iconic horseshoe-shaped building is set to be used as a walking, cycling and canoeing hub as well as offering volunteering opportunities and a shared working space for conservation organisations.
During the visit Dr Coffey also heard about the Trust’s role in a planned waterside regeneration scheme at Icknield Port Loop. The proposed scheme, near Edgbaston Reservoir, would include housing, retail space and community facilities.
Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey said: “Canals are an important part of Birmingham’s landscape and history, so it’s fantastic to see the Canal & River Trust’s projects bringing them back to life.
“The Trust’s work with the local community is educating young people about our nation’s heritage and I would like to thank them and all the volunteers for their hard work to protect Birmingham’s canals for future generations.”
Richard Parry, chief executive of the Canal & River Trust, said; “We were very pleased to welcome Dr Coffey and showcase the many ways that people are making a difference on their local waterways.
“In Birmingham, and across the country, our volunteers play an invaluable role at every level of our work from going into schools and helping visitors to practical works and making sure that the canal is a welcoming, appealing place. They’re real local heroes and it was fantastic that Dr Coffey was able to meet just a few of them.
“The visit was also an excellent opportunity to take a tour of the Roundhouse. The exciting plans we have in place with our friends at the National Trust will only strengthen our ability to engage with local people and create a wonderful resource that Birmingham can be rightly proud of.”
Peter Mathews CMG, chair of the Canal & River Trust’s West Midlands Waterway Partnership, said; “Everyone knows just how much Birmingham’s canals mean to local people and this was a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the passion, enthusiasm and sheer hard work that they bring to the waterways.
“This growing support from local people along with planned developments at the Roundhouse and Icknield Port mean that it’s a tremendously exciting time for the city’s famous waterways and we’re very happy to be part of it.”
For more information about the Canal & River Trust visit www.canalrivertrust.org.uk.