Newport City Council Responds to Our Concerns on the Poor Condition of the Crumlin Arm Canal

Our Trust has been extremely concerned about the lack of maintenance on the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal in Newport. We have also, like many local residents, been alarmed by the lack of water in both the Crumlin Arm, and main line of the canal north of Newport. Our views on the lack of water in the Crumlin Arm were set out in our news article in May, and received much local press coverage:

Channel west of Ruskin Avenue July 2022
The “canal” channel west of Ruskin Avenue Newport, which is in desperate need of maintenance

We continue to liaise with the canal teams at Caerphilly and Newport Councils.

We have recently received this response from Newport City Council via Councillor Yvonne Forsey…

“..Newport has approximately seven miles of canal that runs from our authority boundaries right into the centre of the City. The Council manages this fantastic community asset on a very limited resource with which we must prioritise emergency works such as subsidence, leaks, vandalism of bridges and also neighbour encroachment. Where possible we have utilised external resource to undertake surface maintenance and land management, along with the invaluable works that have been achieved by the Canal Trust and Countryside Service volunteer groups.

The improvement and protection of the canal as an amenity resource is a very high priority and has been acknowledged at the highest level of the Authority. We are also working with partner organisations such as NRW, adjacent Local Authorities and Canal Trust, to manage penning levels and water flow through the system and are currently looking for opportunities to increase water flow. However we are restricted by volume available from t he higher sections of the system, where they are also experiencing issues. In recent months we undertook a limited amount of channel clearing, but unfortunately it was not sufficient to improve levels due to lack of rainfall.

We are aware that all levels are low, but at present we have no water sources to divert to this area. Fortunately the majority of the fish stock was relocated from this pond to sections where the levels are holding, so there should be limited impact on the aquatic species, but we appreciate that people are concerned about the water fowl and other birds and we will monitor the situation. Overall we are seeking funding to undertake de-silting, channel re- lining and other works and hopefully this will be something that is successful, given the strength of feeling about the canal system, locally.

At the present time the team have been active in the following ways:

identify all works required through detailed survey via external consultants. This will pick up leaking sections and any issues such as sink holes, lost masonry and blockages;

environmental surveys for habitat management are ongoing and we have been actively managing the canal for biodiversity improvement for several years;

– structural/visual surveys of bridges, gates, boards and hard infrastructure are ongoing – golf course bridge was repaired recently and we will undertake a check for vandalism;

– tree condition surveys are completed with tree removals scheduled for early autumn including removal of over hanging branches and fallen sections within the canal;

– engage consultant to specify contract works for silt removal and re-lining works from boundary with Caerphilly down to the 14 locks centre. These works will remove silt build up and debris from the channel and reline with suitable methods to retain water throughout the year. Will include removal of vegetation blockages;

– investigate options for new water supply to sustain good water levels throughout the year;

– Several funding sources have been reviewed and applications made to external funders. The team who are involved in the canal including the countryside team and grounds maintenance team do not consider this asset to be a low priority. In fact quite the opposite and try to support and work with the canal trust wherever possible…..

Monmouthshire Brecon and Abergavenny Canals Trust (MBACT) Chairman Revd. John Collier said …

Our Trust welcomes the positive response and looks forward to working with Newport City Council to improve this important historical and ecological asset for the benefit of the local community. We are pleased that the hard work of the Canal and Countryside Volunteer Team, (a partnership between MBACT and Newport CC), which helps with canal and nature reserve maintenance is acknowledged.

A substantial amount of Welsh Government funding is being spent by Newport City Council on improving the canal towpath in order to encourage residents to walk and cycle. To be effective that route needs to be convenient, safe and attractive. Running in close proximity to a neglected canal channel is not an attractive route.

The recognition by Newport City Council of the importance of the canal as a local resource is welcomed. However that recognition does not appear to have been translated into action on the ground. A walk along both the Crumlin Arm and the main line north to Torfaen highlights the many years of non-existent maintenance on the canal channel, resulting in an overgrown, silted-up canal channel and rotting lock gates.

The Council manages the canal “…on a very limited resource..”. We would say totally inadequate resource. We understand the pressures on the Council’s budget over many years and the competing demands on it. We know that Newport Countryside Team do their best with a non-existent canal budget. But the canal is an easily accessible resources for our community. It functions as a linear park, a cycleway, a footpath linking our communities, a fishery, a wildlife haven to stroll along, and potentially a navigable waterway again bringing economic gain. It is enjoyed by a wide spectrum of our community.

We welcome Newport City Council’s commitment to remove silt build-up and relining the canal to the west of Fourteen Locks, an urgent action we requested in our May News Article. Non-existent maintenance on the Newport side of the boundary has allowed a substantial amount of silt and weed to build up build up, which is clear to see from the recent photos.

Canal on Caerphilly side of Caerphilly / Newport boundary
Canal on Caerphilly side of Caerphilly / Newport boundary has water but has algae and duckweed due to lack of water flow into the Newport section.
Canal on Newport side of Caerphilly / Newport boundary
Canal on Newport side of Caerphilly / Newport boundary overgrown and lacking water.

Caerphilly County Borough Council responds to our requests to investigate issues affecting water flow

The canal feeder at Manor Road is an important source of water for the canal as it runs down to Newport. The feed which picks up surface water flows from the Ty Sign area, has had to be turned off several times during the last few years due to the illegal connection of domestic appliances to the surface water drainage system, which caused serious pollution incidents. This feeder is under the control of Dwr Cymru Welsh Water (DCWW). Caerphilly CBC have confirmed that..

..In the interest of maintaining sufficient water levels within the lower reaches of the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal, Caerphilly County Borough Council have been liaising with DCWW on the status of the controlled feed at Manor Road, Risca.

DCWW have confirmed that they are progressing with their investigation into the illegal connections to the existing surface water sewer however, a resolution is anticipated to take several months due to the sewer’s catchment area.

In the interim, DCWW are trialling a new piece of equipment that has been placed in the water within the canal channel at Manor Road. The equipment automatically samples the water for its chemical composition and returns the data to DCWW for review/monitoring…

MBACT welcomes the ongoing investigations by DCWW, and urges them to retain the monitoring equipment at the site permanently, so that quality of water entering the canal can be continually monitored.

MBACT were made aware that to the west of The Darren, water appeared to be flowing west rather than east towards Newport, and was being lost over the Dragons Teeth/Medart Place weir near Cross Keys College. We suspect that the culvert taking the the canal water under the road and filled section was partly blocked.

Caerphilly CBC have confirmed that in order to….

”…further assist in downstream water levels, Caerphilly County Borough Council have commissioned an investigation into the Darran Road Culvert (the section linking The Deeps with Temperance Hill). The culvert was cleansed and CCTV surveyed where it was discovered that a section of pipe (approx. 30m long) and associated chamber at the mid-way point has settled considerably and rapidly worsened since the effects of Storm Dennis.

Caerphilly CBC have engaged with a suitable Contractor and are seeking funding to attend to repairs. To ensure the free passage of water through the culvert following the said repairs, Caerphilly CBC have further commissioned a Contractor to fabricate and install a trash screen on the inlet of the Darran Road Culvert..”