£30m water park scheme unveiled

THE city of never-ending wonders is making another big splash with plans for a £30 million water park.

A new canal is set to wind its way across the eastern flank from the Grand Union at Newlands to beyond Broughton Gate close to the motorway.

It will cut through Willen Lake, hop the River Ouzel, loop around Atterbury, swallow-up Broughton Brook and run east through Broughton and Broughton Gate. into a newly-created marina.

The British Waterways Trust scheme aims to be a mecca for leisure seekers and the first stretch of an ambitious canal link between Milton Keynes and Bedford.

The waterway, through a fully landscaped park, will be facilitated by up 20 locks, crossings, pumping systems, weirs, embankments and cuttings.

The Trust says it will become a well-known landmark for the east side, making it "a place" rather than just a suburb.

It hopes work could start in 2009 and the canal be open by 2012.

The planning application to the city council is almost bound to run into controversy, with its intention to route boats across number-one beauty spot Willen Lake. A floating barrier would need to be installed to guide them.

It is accepted that fluctuating water levels would mean at some high-water points the lake would have to shut to passing traffic.

Design work has been funded through a 250,000 Lottery grant awarded to the Bedford-Milton Keynes Waterways Trust.

The plan has been shortlisted for a massive 25 million hand-out from the Lottery due to be announced later this year.

If it gets the money, the British Waterways Trust proposes raising the remaining 5 million or more through commercial sponsors, grants and public appeal.

Trust member and interim chief executive for the project John Bint said: "Everyone we've spoken to is supportive of creating this beautiful piece of water and surrounding paths and areas, as a significant leisure amenity for this side of the city.

"It should make a very substantial contribution to quality of life, not just for people living locally, but for the entire surrounding area."