A Canals Summit was held at the Lichfield home of Michael Fabricant early this afternoon between Philip Bradbourn OBE MEP (Conservative Member of the European Parliament for the West Midlands), Michael Fabricant, and the following officers of the Lichfield & Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust Limited: Brian Kingshott (Chairman), Phil Sharpe (Vice-Chairman), Rob Davies (Director, Fund Raising), and Bob Williams (Finance Director) to explore the possibilities for political and financial support from Westminster and Brussels following the imminent start of construction on the Birmingham Northern Relief Road. (Michael Fabricant is a keen supporter of the Trust; he is a member of the Parliamentary Waterways Group and a regular canal boat user).
Now that the BNRR is due to be built, there is urgent need to find funds to provide an aqueduct to enable the canal to cross over the new toll road. Michael Fabricant has offered support for lottery funding while Philip Bradbourn MEP is providing advice regarding European Union funding.
Mr Fabricant says: "Following this meeting, I will be contacting Lord Whitty (Minister for Roads and Canals) updating him on the present position. We will also meet with him in the coming months while I maintain political pressure down in Westminster. Funding must now be found as a matter of urgency. If the aqueduct is not built at the same time as the road, the road will have to be closed or disrupted badly if the aqueduct is built after the road is opened. This makes no sense at all. Both Philip Bradbourn and I support the Canal Trust. The opening of the Lichfield & Hatherton Canals will create new jobs in the area revitalising tourism and local farms in south Staffordshire. The canal will also provide a valuable resource for migrating birds and other wildlife". Michael Fabricant has been campaigning for the Trust ever since the general election in 1997 when John Prescott over-ruled the Birmingham Northern Relief Road inspectors. His decision allowed the BNRR to cut straight across the canal without providing a tunnel or an aqueduct. This was despite the Government’s claim that they were going to introduce an "integrated transport policy" linking roads, rail, airports, and canals.