Executive Committee Summary - Feb 2021

Much background work has continued during lockdown; responses are being created to the various consultations on Local Plans, progress with the Melksham Link now looks likely. The Trustees have approved a contract with a professional fundraising company, on the understanding that they will raise considerably more money than their fees, the aim being a ratio of 10 : 1. The signage and water access groups are making steady progress; the former has retrieved the Trust's 'old' phone number, present on many existing signs, and installed a voice message on it giving the correct number.

Since the slippage of the gabion wall at Studley Grange, the Trust has purchased a drone, operated by volunteer Alex, and has obtained high-resolution images of the area, which will assist in identifying the cause. The drone will be used elsewhere, not least to do 'flyovers' eventually covering the entire line of the canal; these will be used to promote restoration to Local Government areas along the route, assisted by emails to all Town, Borough & County Councillors and candidates in time for the May local elections. The first of these has already been sent to those in Swindon, building on the likelihood of preparations for a crossing under the M4. East Vale is preparing another, and work is ongoing to do the same with the remaining Branches. Later, the drone will be used to create 'fly by' videos of the entire line; these will be enhanced by visualisations, probably with commercial companies, financed by a grant of £20K from the Underwood Trust for this purpose.

Trust finances are healthier than for many years, a Finance Management Group of all Branch Treasurers has been set up, and a new paperless workflow document is now in place to streamline the purchasing process, from request through approval to payment. RWB Branch is planning how best to put the six-figure legacy from Vic Miller to best use; at Pewsham the final pieces of work are being put in place to start work on the Top Lock accommodation bridge. A design is being prepared for a temporary compound at Westleaze adjacent to Beavan's Bridge, to include a slipway sufficient to launch trailerable boats such as The Mary Archard. Lastly, work is proceeding as soon as conditions permit to rewater the canal at Canal Park, Shrivenham, thanks to the IWA grant received last year.

In short, the Trust is preparing itself for the massive expansion that will be needed as, triggered by the M4 crossing, restoration work proceeds apace.