BEHIND THE HEADLINES: Chichester Ship Canal restoration

The bridge at Donnington where the proposed construction would take place. Picture by Kate Shemilt C130861-3
The bridge at Donnington where the proposed construction would take place. Picture by Kate Shemilt C130861-3

A REJUVENATION of Chichester’s canal is up for debate, as people take sides over plans to open it up to the sea.

The scheme to reconnect Chichester Harbour to the sea was exclusively revealed in the Observer in February, 2012, and it is now gathering pace – with formal plans expected to be submitted this year.

With a start date hoped for in 2014, current estimates give the project a 2018 finish date.

If the restoration, including the installation of a lifting bridge, happened, the canal could accommodate vessels navigating to and from Chichester Harbour, which supporters say would present ‘new opportunities’ to exploit its potential.

However, those opposed to the scheme cite possible damage to the environment and the impact on residents of the Manhood Peninsula.

In its restoration plan, Chichester Ship Canal Trust described the two main barriers to through navigation of the canal as the road crossings at Donnington, on the B2201, and Cutfield, on the A286.

For this reason it proposes building a swing bridge at Donnington, a bridge at Cutfield and a lifting bridge at Crosbie.

Provisional estimates indicate the total cost would be around £5m — taking into account consultancy fees for design, public consultation, public relations, publicity and legal fees.

The estimated cost of the Crosbie lifting bridge would be £1.5m.

Currently West Sussex County Council, with support from the Chichester Ship Canal Trust, is financing preliminary design work for the lifting bridge.

A document released by the trust said: “As the project develops, its capital costs will need to be found from a number of potential sources, mainly from the private sector, but also from central government grants, European grants and National Lottery funding.”

“Further funding will be obtained from the canal trust. Costs associated with West Sussex County Council, Chichester District Council and canal trust officer and members are currently being funded by these bodies.”

The trust said it envisaged Premier Marinas would fund most of the capital work between the harbour and Birdham Road.

Chichester Ship Canal was designed and constructed by civil engineer John Rennie, who was also famed for his work on London Bridge, as well as his work on a number of other canals.

The canal opened in 1822 and formed part of the network connecting Portsmouth and London.It was not as profitable as originally imagined and became largely abandoned between 1868 and 1875.

To ensure the connection to the sea remained, Chichester City Council took ownership of the canal in 1892. The connection to the sea effectively ended in 1925, when culverts replaced two of the main road bridges at Donnington and Cutfield.

It is these two bridges which the plan would see restored. The council abandoned the canal in 1928.

Now owned by West Sussex County Council, it is leased to the Chichester Ship Canal Trust which maintains and looks after the area on a daily basis.

For the full feature and to see a breakdown of the work that would be undertaken, see this week’s Chichester Observer (July 11)