Canal trust launches £1m campaign to update HQ in Devizes
The Kennet and Avon Canal Trust is poised to launch a campaign to raise £1million to renovate and reorganise its headquarters building at Devizes Wharf.
After many years of struggle and negotiation, the trust has a lease for the former warehouses beside the canal which house the trust’s visitor shop, museum and newly reopened café and is looking to spend many more years there.
Last year the trust had to consider moving out of the 200-year-old building when they were faced with repairs totalling £500,000 but, following discussions with Wiltshire Council, which owns the property, an agreement was reached.
Mike Rodd, chairman of the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust, said: “We now have a ten-year lease on the building under which we can leave without penalty if it continues to deteriorate.”
The trust has already spent more than £100,000 attending to major structural problems, including a cracked beam and rotten floors.
Volunteers solved one of the major problems, the deteriorating wall facing Couch Lane, which has now been repaired by their own efforts.
But the uninsulated roof is now a problem.
Mr Rodd said: “It will have to come off so we can put in insulation. All our heat is going straight up through it. So we have decided in the next week or two, to launch a £1million campaign to completely renovate it.
“We have had a lot of support from Devizes Canoe Club, who are based here, so we want to install facilities for them, including changing and shower facilities.”
There are also plans to upgrade the canal museum, one of the best in the country, and possibly even switch it with the café. The café reopened last week under the management of Tarkan and Victoria Kisioglu and is regularly packed out with visitors and local people.
An unexpected problem for the trust has been the morphing of the quango British Waterways into the Canal and River Trust, which was launched in July.
The Canal and River Trust now undertakes the activities of British Waterways in maintaining and improving the waterways of the UK but the wellbeing of canalside properties, such as the Crofton Pumping Station near Marlborough, is the responsiblity of the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust.
Mr Rodd said: “The CRT has a 15-year contract with the Government to work for the waterways of Britain. It is not a membership run organisation like the KACT. The two organisations are very different and I hope there will be no confusion between the two.”