This forum meets quarterly to enable all the local Parish and town councils to discuss matters of common interest, and to administer the Community grant scheme. The meetings are open and anyone can attend as an observer.
At the October meeting two discussions in particular were most interesting and informative and I hope my notes below will be of interest to local people and accurately reflect the points raised. Anyone interested in the work of the panel can find more information here – http://www.cornwall.gov.uk/community-and-living/communities-and-devolution/community-networks/bude/
Bude town public toilets
The day to day running of these has been taken on by Bude & Stratton Town Council (Poundstock Parish Council have taken on the running of the toilets at Widemouth Bay). The Town Council are trying to obtain grants to meet some of the costs associated with this, and Cornwall Council have now agreed to pay a proportion of the car parking revenue to the local councils towards the ongoing running costs. At the moment all the public toilets in Bude remain open and the hope is that Cornwall Council will continue to pay the car parking levy beyond the 3 years it has already agreed to.
Bude Canal and Marshes
At the request of The Bude Canal & Harbour Society(BCHS) and the Bude Canal Angling Group, representatives from Cornwall Council and Cormac came to talk about the work they do on the canal and in the valley. BCHS are concerned that the heritage project completed several years ago did not include the replacement of Rodds Bridge on the canal (which is too low for motor powered boats to pass under it) and the installation of a slipway to allow such boats to be launched. Replacing Rodds Bridge would have made the upper section of the canal fully navigable to larger boats. A secondhand swing bridge had been offered as a replacement and BCHS were disappointed that Cornwall Council had not taken this up. The Cornwall Council representative explained that Rodds Bridge was already considered substandard and was 170th on the Cornwall wide list of 350 such bridges, so replacement of the bridge was a very distant prospect. The swing bridge offered to replace it was also substandard and the costs of the work required to bring it up to standard and then install it, were far too great for it to be a viable prospect. The issue of a slipway was discussed and is something that may happen in the future if suitable land with usable access can be found and grants obtained to finance the work.
The regeneration of the wharf area in particular has been a spectacular success and this is now a thriving and popular part of Bude, whilst the canal and valley are incredibly popular for outdoor recreation by a whole cross section of users. The Heritage Project to regenerate the canal was a success (despite BCHS’s view) as the final funding would not have been forthcoming if the project had not met it’s objectives and delivered the benefits identified in the project brief.
The angling group were concerned that the middle section of the canal had not been dredged for many years and was now barely two feet deep in places. Cornwall Council have recently secured funding to enable them to plan some of the ongoing maintenance needed, and dredging the canal is one task that will be included in the program of work.
Gareth Cann, the Countryside Ranger responsible for the canal and valley, gave a very interesting overview of his role. He manages the canal, marshes and river valley, checking water levels, and carrying out some maintenance himself. He monitors the wildlife both on the canal and in the marshes and takes action as necessary to maintain the quality of both environments for the benefit of the wildlife, whilst ensuring that the flood prevention aspects of the marshes work to the benefit of the town in preventing flooding of properties. He and a colleague are on call 24/7 to take action by opening sluices along the canal to ensure flood water can escape safely into the sea, rather than overtopping the canal and flooding adjacent properties. He also works closely with the Bude Harbour Master and assists with locking in and out at the sea lock.
Gareth monitors and manages the use of the valley by members of the public and groups. Over the last year 130,000 people accessed the canal towpath (there is a footfall counter on the towpath) and use by local groups has increased to include a paddle boarding group, a wildlife canoe experience and several groups from local schools and organisations like the scouts using the valley for educational and outdoor experience activities. All this is in addition to the anglers and outdoor adventure organisations which regularly make use of the canal and river. Gareth runs regular briefing sessions for activity leaders to ensure that everyone respects both other users and the wildlife living in the valley.
It was clear from the speakers that Cornwall Council is well aware of the enormous benefit of the canal and marshes as a public/tourist amenity and environmental space, both as a wildlife habitat and an important tool in preventing flooding. There is little danger of the canal falling into the disrepair of years gone by.