The Civic Centre in Pontypool
The Civic Centre in Pontypool Credit: Cwmbran Life

UNIQUE solutions will be required to restore a canal to full navigation in areas that are either underground or no longer navigable. 

Doubts over the long-term ambition to bring the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal back into use in Cwmbran were raised due to the sale of land containing the remains of a canal lock 30 years ago. 

In April Torfaen Borough Council – which is behind plans to reopen the canal – confirmed the land at Lock Keeper’s Cottage at Greenhill Road, formed part of a private garden and granted its owner a certificate confirming its legal use. 

That came about after its planning department attempted to bring enforcement action against him for putting up a fence. The action was abandoned as documents and records showed it had sold the land to him in 1994 and had previously recognised it as part of his garden. 

As a result Llantarnam independent councillor David Thomas questioned the impact on the ambition to open the canal so that barges can travel through Cwmbran by 2033. 

At the full council’s April 23 meeting Cllr Thomas asked what options the council now has to realise its plan. 

He said: “Prior to the canal strategy being published in 2023, the canal coordinator acknowledged that restoring the canal to a basin south of Greenhill Road would require the restoration of the privately owned section of canal which has been culverted under the Lock Keepers Cottage.” 

Labour councillor Joanna Gauden, who has responsibility for economic development, described the strategy as a “living document” which is reviewed annually and that at present it hasn’t found “any new challenges”. 

She said the current focus is on increasing the number of boats to Five Locks which would support extending navigation to Mount Pleasant Road and beyond. 

The strategy, Cllr Gauden said, has identified “several blockages where the canal has been culverted, passes under roads or infilled as has happened at Greenhill Road. Each will require unique technological solutions to bring them back into water.” 

The Croesyceiliog councillor said the council would then have a “clearer picture” of how much land would be required and it would also have to consider ownership. 

Asked by Cllr Thomas what options the council has if the land at Lock Keeper’s Cottage isn’t available Cllr Guaden replied: “I can’t see there being a change with the land that isn’t in our ownership, it will remain not in our ownership as we move closer to technological solutions we can bring them to members to look at for solutions to any specific blockages on the canal.”