The waterway link is now a park

THE Bedford and Milton Keynes Waterway, the proposed link between the Grand Union Canal and the River Great Ouse has now been downgraded and named the Bedford and Milton Keynes Waterway Park.

It was over 20 years ago, in 1995 that the Bedford and Milton Keynes Waterway Trust was established to promote a new waterway connecting the Grand Union Canal at Milton Keynes with the River Great Ouse at Bedford.

The route

The proposed route of the new canal was from the Grand Union Canal at Campbell Park in Milton Keynes  crossing the M1 motorway via  Brogborough Hill, through Marston Vale to the the River Great Ouse at Kempston, Bedford.

During the early 2000's Millennium Commission and English Partnerships were proving funds for canal restorations, with the Rochdale Canal being fully restored, the Huddersfield Narrow Canal being completely rebuilt and the Anderton Boat Lift also benefiting from the money and being restored to working order. 

With a new link from the Ribble to the Lancaster Canal also being completed it was a good time for a new waterway connecting the main waterway system to the River Great Ouse, so in 2003 British Waterways announced its long-term aim to build the connection in conjunction with a number of partner organisations.

mk underpassSetback

The Bedford and Milton Keynes Waterway Trust carried out design work on the project, funded through a £250,000 Lottery grant, but suffered a setback in 2004 when Milton Keynes Council failed to include the route in the Supplementary Planning Guidance for the Eastern Expansion Area of Milton Keynes. But this decision reversed as the result of a public petition, with the planned route within Milton Keynes now protected, but alas it was too late.

The first structure specifically constructed for the waterway was a 110 yards concrete culvert, completed in September 2009 as part of the A421 underpass, with funds from the Government Growth Area Funds.

Brogborough Hill (pictured) was however a problem, with a number of ideas put forward including a boat lift, but all came to nothing as the source of funds dried-up—the great restoration period was over.

mkbogboroughHillWalking and cycling route

So no longer is it the Bedford and Milton Keynes Waterway Trust, but the Bedford and Milton Keynes Waterway Park—a walking and cycling route now used to further the building of houses along what was to be the waterway corridor, and we are told:

'Over the past year the NIC has been looking into the ways in which economic growth and housing delivery can be speeded up across the whole corridor. The proposed Waterway Park sits at its heart, between Bedford and Milton Keynes providing a unique opportunity for thinking big and planning across boundaries. Whilst the report emphasises the need for improved road and rail connections it also points to the need for strong “place-making” including new green space to help establish places where people want to live and work'.

That rather points to the end of the dream of a waterway link between the Grand Union Canal and the River Great Ouse.