A funding cut of over £300m poses a “serious threat” to canals in North Wales, according to an MS.
Llyr Gruffydd, who represents the region in the Senedd, has branded the sharp reduction as “alarming” and has warned that it will lead to an “inevitable” decline in the condition of the canal network and could even result in closures.
The UK Government recently announced a long-term funding settlement for the Canal & River Trust which includes Glandŵr Cymru the Canal & River Trust in Wales, for the period from 2027 to 2037.
The network in Wales, includes the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, the Chirk Aqueduct and the 11 miles of the Llangollen canal, which have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Chirk Aqueduct and the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct were designed by renowned civil engineer Thomas Telford.
Mr Gruffydd, of Plaid Cymru, has said the “irresponsible” decision by the UK Government puts this UNESCO World Heritage site “at risk” and has called on Tory ministers to “think again”.
The amount awarded represents a steep reduction in its funding of over £300 million in real terms over the ten-year period.
The scale of the proposed cut has been projected to rise each year to reach a nearly £50m annual reduction by the end of the new grant agreement period in 2036.
It is so large that it is feared that it will inevitably mean deep cuts to canal maintenance and repair, and eventually lead to canal closures.
Llyr Gruffydd MS said: “This irresponsible decision by the UK Government presents a serious threat to the canal network in Wales.
“It should be remembered that these are historic waterways and they include a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
“The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, the Chirk Aqueduct, as well as 11 miles of the Llangollen canal are an important part of our industrial heritage in Wales, and this funding cut by the UK Government clearly puts them at risk.
“It represents almost a halving of real-terms public funding for canals in the ten years from 2027 compared with recent years. It will inevitably lead to a decline in the condition of the canal network and the alarming prospect of canal closures.
“Inexplicably, the UK Government has made this decision despite its own review confirming that funding for the Canal & River Trust is ‘clear value for money’.
“It has shown that the network of canals delivers substantial benefits to the economy, to people and communities, and to nature and biodiversity.
“The announcement risks turning back the clock on one of Wales’ greatest heritage regeneration stories and will lead to the loss of both vital nature habitat and treasured public spaces with a loss of substantial benefits for millions of people.
“To make matters worse, the decision to reduce long-term funding comes at a time when, the cost of maintaining the historic canals, locks, bridges, aqueducts, embankments, reservoirs and other critical assets is increasing.
“This is in part due to the rising impact of climate change with more periods of drought and extreme storm events.
“The canals bring the benefits of green space and nature corridors into urban areas, reaching millions of people, creating wildlife corridors, contributing to flood defences and drainage, and transferring water to support public water supply.
“Research has shown that the canals support local jobs and boost the economy. They also deliver social welfare value to people and communities including significant physical and mental health benefits.
“Tory ministers need to seriously think again about this damaging decision.”