Agenda item

Exeter Ship Canal and Heritage Harbour Route Map

To receive a presentation from John Monks, Chair Friends of the Exeter Ship Canal. The circulated document has also been presented to the Exeter Canal and Quay Trust.


The Chair of the Exeter Ship Canal, John Monks presented the details of the Heritage Harbour route map. He advised that the Exeter Canal and Quay Trust (ECQT) had adopted the circulated version of the route map. He added that he made some minor revisions and would take the opportunity to update the document in the future.


He set out the background to the Ship Canal and Heritage Harbour Route Map and how the document may be of use to the Harbour Board.  At the end of 2020, the Friends of the Ship Canal secured Heritage Harbour status for Exeter, and published their report Making the Canal Matter Again calling on the City Council, the Canal and Quay Trust and the Port Authority to work together and use the boost which the new Heritage Harbour status provided to bring about a working regeneration of the waterway. The responsibilities for the canal and basin, control over income and use of waterside buildings, and management of access to the sea were split three ways between the Council, the Trust and since 2021 the Harbour Board. The route map was commissioned and sets out interlocking projects, activities and improvements to take the canal and basin forward and scale up the level and range of maritime activity to make Exeter a leading inland port.  The route map also develops its plan for a maritime future simultaneously with its vision for a working Heritage Harbour including the docking of historic vessels and return of traditional skills and crafts.  He welcomed the arrival at the Basin of Britannia for restoration and Snark for a safe commercial mooring over winter, along with the two Heritage Harbourside festivals organised by ECQT, which were all tangible results of the Route Map’s preparation. 


The Route Map was designed to be a source of good ideas and good advice and a tool for planning ahead and offers a direction of travel.  It included practical recommendations as long-term proposals and quick wins for the canal and basin and included:-


·      Return of waterside assets to waterway use

·      Making space and workshops available for start-up boatbuilders

·      an accessible canal management, information and community hub

·      A mini-hub at Topsham Lock and the Lock Cottage

·      Preparation for quicker and easier navigation when headroom beneath the road bridges on the A379 is raised: this is a game-changer

·      Bridges and locks electrically operated and boater operated where possible

·      Slipways fit for purpose

·      Attracting commercial interest in, say, sailing holidays working out of Exeter and making a gradual return of specialised waterborne freight with low carbon impact a focus of the Port’s waterway revival. If Exe Estuary mussels bound for Exeter, and Exeter brewed beer bound for Exmouth are transported in any other way than by boat, something is lacking

·      Lacking too is the offer of combined bus and ferry tickets for passenger transport, taking in Marsh Barton railway station and a variety of waterside leisure destinations.


In conclusion, a key idea embedded in the Route Map, was that the basin, canal, estuary and its smaller harbours, and the coast make up one entity of the port and the basin is the Port of Exeter’s principle harbour.  The idea of the Route Map to update maritime activity and economic focus at the canal and basin was a route to the Port’s continuing maritime significance. However, the Route Map will only be useful only as long as it is held to be a live document that sets a general direction. It is to be consulted, reviewed and adapted as opportunities and possibilities evolve and partnerships grow.

He suggested that a sense of direction for the port as a whole was needed and welcomed any opportunity as to how the Harbour Board might join with the two other stakeholders in the Canal, the Friends of the Ship Canal and ECQT.


The Chair thanked Mr Monks and suggested that the topic of the Route Map be included in the agenda and discussed further at the proposed Visioning Day for the Board.


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