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£47m canal scheme makes headway in Northern Ireland

Words: Roger Milne
Disused Lisburn lock

An ambitious £46 million plan to reopen the historic canal from Belfast to Lisburn appears to be making headway after years of inaction.

Culture minister Caral Ni Chuilin has proposed an outline scheme to finance minister Arlene Foster for approval. Backing is being sought for £46.3m over seven years.

It is the first phase of proposals by the Lagan Canal Trust, which wants to relaunch the 27 miles of potentially navigable waterway between Belfast and Lough Neagh.

A strategic outline business case for the first phase of the project has been forwarded to Foster’s department. This would involve the reopening of the navigation from Belfast to Union locks, Lisburn.

The Trust includes three councils - Belfast, Lisburn/Castlereagh, and the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon authority - as well as the NI Environment Agency as partners.

It said: "(We) are custodians of the 300-year-old waterway - a living and working heritage - and we do this with sustainability in mind to ensure that our outstanding national asset is well kept for future generations to enjoy."

As well as the 46-mile Ulster Canal from Armagh to Lough Erne, the Upper Bann, Newry and Coalisland Canals were abandoned in the 1950s when they failed to compete with goods transported by rail and road.