In 2011, Sustrans, the council, Don Foster MP, and the Canal & River Trust came together and agreed that the state of the Kennet and Avon Towpath between Sydney Gardens and Bathampton was in such a poor state that funding would be found to upgrade the towpath to a 4 season surface that would last for 15+years.
£135k was found in the council budget and Sustrans had reserved £315k of their core funds for the project. Then in 2012, the UK experienced extreme flooding and the government cut Sustrans core funding to support the development of flood defences.
In 2014 the CRT wrote a planning objection letter to the redevelopment of the Warminster Road MOD site demanding £315k towards maintenance of the towpath as the new bridge across to the towpath would increase footfall on an already busy towpath that was suffering from severe erosion.
In January 2015, the council bid and won Cycle City Ambition Grant money to finally do the repair under the CRT’s new “Better Towpaths for Everyone” policy. A national policy to bring ALL 2000 miles of towpaths up to a better standard through a three pronged approach:
- Better infrastructure :- Widening all towpaths (where necessary) and upgrading to 4 season surfaces usable all year round.
- Better signage :- Clear and prominent shared use signs to be installed across the country where there are concerns raised by local users.
- Better behaviour :- A range of initiatives to encourage considerate use of towpaths. These include the CRT’s “Share the space, drop your pace” campaign and the recently developed towpath code of conduct.
There are some people in the community that do not want this repair to go ahead and have started a shock campaign around the idea that the repair will allow cyclists to cycle even faster along the towpath using a rather horrible picture from an inexcusable hit and run incident on a towpath up on the Wigan canal. They want this upgrade stopped at all costs. They like it the way it is as it slowly becomes unusable to all but the most determined users over years to come.