THE reopening of a disused canal will boost jobs and tourism in the north west of the county, Shropshire Council has said.

A new economic impact assessment has been commissioned to assess the benefits the restoration of the Montgomery Canal could bring to the county, as work progresses to get closed off sections back into use.

Most recently work has been underway to restore Schoolhouse Bridge south of Crickheath, and it is hoped the full 33-mile length of the canal, from Newtown to Frankton Junction near Ellesmere, will be back in use by 2029.

At a meeting of the council’s cabinet on Monday, The Meres councillor Brian Williams, who sits on the Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust, asked for an update on the project.

He said: “I am aware that the council has a considerable input into the scheme for the restoration of the Schoolhouse Bridge which was demolished many years ago and which has caused a major blockage to the restoration of the canal into Wales and to Welshpool.

“As the council is assisting in the planning application, the highways issues and the financial problems of meeting the cost, could the chairman please give an update on how these matters are progressing?”

Lezley Picton, portfolio holder for culture and leisure, said the council was “fully supportive” of aspirations to reopen the whole canal.

Councillor Picton said: “To this end, the Montgomery Canal Restoration Project Board was set up in September 2020 with the aim to enable the restoration of the Montgomery Canal in Shropshire and maximise the associated benefits.

“This restoration is seen as an important economic driver for the north west of the county, which will result in a boost to the visitor economy and associated businesses, as well as health and wellbeing benefits to residents.

“The council is working with the Canal and River Trust, the Montgomery Canal Partnership and the Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust on the development of a new economic impact assessment, which will clarify these economic benefits.

“The council’s highways engineering services, development control and legal teams have also been working collaboratively with the Canal and Rivers Trust, Montgomery Waterway Restoration Trust, Montgomery Canal Reconstruction Ltd and other stakeholders to ensure this project is delivered to the programme timescales.

“The council has further made a number of financial concessions in order to support this project which will bring much needed tourism and employment opportunities to Oswestry and surrounding areas.

“In addition some of our service providers such as Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering have agreed to loan construction equipment free of charge during the construction of the bridge works as part of their commitment to Social Value and working in the community.”