By January 1999, negotiations for the purchase of Morningside Farm had been pursued for almost a year.
A letter from North Wilts District Council to Ray Denyer, leader of the Landowner/Local-Authority Liaison team of the Amenity Group on 4th January set the scene for the purchase:
Dear Mr Denyer
WILTS AND BERKS CANAL
Thank you for your enquiry regarding the position of the Wilts and Berks Canal Project in the Council's Strategic plans. I am happy to give the following information'-
I) The Wilts and Berks Canal restoration project is a major part of the Council's economic, tourism, leisure and environment strategy and many of our policies relate to this factor;
2) The Council has decided to support the project by allocating finances and resources together with Officers' time to further the aims of the Canal Trust;
3) North Wiltshire District Council's vision for the canal is the development of a multi-faceted facility that envisages a "Green Corridor of Opportunity" which will promote the linking of footpaths. bridleways, cycle routes, nature reserves and the development of associated leisure, economic and tourism facilities;
4) The Council have made proposals for the allocation of funds in the next financial year 1999/2000 towards the cost of providing a Project Officer to further the work-programme of restoration;
5) In addition. the Council is actively pursuing the purchase of land along the canal route in North Wiltshire from its Strategic Land Purchase fund;
6) The many benefits that would arise from a restored canal have been noted by this Council and the economic re-generation of local communities along the Kennet and Avon, for example, Bradford on Avon, has been incorporated in our formal policy.
This was a very positive statement from NWDC - the lead Council of the 'Wilts & Berks Canal Trust' (which later became the Canal Partnership). In the Summer 1999 issue of Dragonfly (issue 73), readers were told by the Amenity Group’s chairman Tony Davy:
"In the last Chair Chat, I mentioned that one of our partners in the Canal Trust was about to buy some land on the line of the canal. The purchase has gone ahead, and restoration work should start at Morningside Farm, near Wootton Bassett, in the near future. North Wilts District Council has bought a field, which includes the summit lock, on behalf of the Trust. The plan is that we will restore the canal, including the lock, and Wiltshire Wildlife will look after the ancient meadows on either side."
Vic Miller took some photos of the canal line through Morningside Farm at about this time:
On 15th June 1999, the Amenity Group had set forth its position in a letter to the Leisure Services Manager of North Wilts District Council regarding management of the farm:
"The [Amenity] Group feels strongly that the Canal Trust should be the lead body in any joint project involving the canal. This will tend to give continuity of ownership, which will make the organisation of the navigation simpler in the future. The canal could be viewed as the catalyst for other initiatives along the corridor."
- Two separate leases could be issued, one for the canal line and its environs, including the lock house site, and a second for the pastures.
- A lease of the whole site be granted to the Canal Trust, who would then employ Wiltshire Wildlife to manage the meadows.
In Dragonfly 74, Autumn 1999, Amenity Group chairman Tony Davy continued the story:
"It's been a quiet summer for those of us involved with the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust. The local council elections in the spring resulted in lots of changes within the councils who are our partners in the Trust. As a result, the councils have spent the last few months sorting out which councillor would do what, and so there haven't been any meetings to attend. The first meeting since the changes was held in early September, and at it the Trust elected a new Chair, Councillor [Jenny] Stratton of North Wiltshire District Council, and a new Vice-chair, our own Henry Smith! Congratulations Henry."