A FIVE-year plan to revamp the Bridgwater and Taunton Canal hopes to rake in tourists and open it up to more boats.

Bridgwater’s Westover ward councillors met with the Inland Waterways Association and Sedgemoor Corporate Director Doug Bamsey to brainstorm some ideas to revive the canal.

A three-stage approach was identified; stage one would be to carry out works to allow boats to move along the waterway, such as raising the water level.

Stage two would involve a high profile Trail Boat Festival in 2019 and stage three would focus on the long term, having lock gates opened into the Parrett.

Bob Abbot, Inland Waterways Association (IWA) chairman said: “The IWA believes there would be considerable merit in developing and implementing a five-year plan to enhance the Canal from Bridgwater Dock through to Standards Lock.

“This would increase its attractiveness to existing and potential users, from both the local community and further afield.”

The project, which would undergo extensive consultation, also suggests reopening the River Parrett to navigation from Bridgwater to Langport and reconnecting the River and Canal.

Mr Abbot added: “It would have a clear aim of developing an agreed and affordable plan. Enhancements at Bridgwater Dock would complement and build on Bridgwater Vision’s Celebration Mile proposals.”

The IWA wants to replace the existing slipway at the north-east corner of the Dock with one that is capable of attracting trail-boaters to use the Dock and the Canal.

Mr Abbot added: “Our target would be to have this in place well in time for a possible IWA sponsored Trail-boat Festival to be held in Bridgwater at the Spring Bank Holiday in May 2019, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the reopening throughout of the Canal in 1994.”

Cllr Kathy Pearce said: “It is important to ensure there is public understanding of any projects that emerge for increasing the use of the canal as a recreational amenity, including the residents that border the docks.”

But Sedgemoor’s Doug Bamsey stressed there were “severe limitations on Council budgets” and noted the decisions Sedgemoor, Taunton Deane and Somerset County councils had made to reduce expenditure on the Canal.

Mike Slade, publicity officer for the IWA’s West Country branch, said: “It’s a wish list but we have funding from other sources and plenty of volunteers to help carry out the work.”

There will also be a clean-up of Bridgwater Dock on July 19. Call 01278-256961 or email mike.slade@waterways.org.uk.