Registered Charity No. 702429

DIRECTORS' REPORT - A.G.M. 2004

2003 was a year of great achievement for the Trust during which significant progress was made towards restoring the two canals, some long-standing matters were resolved and new opportunities were progressed. The Directors' main objectives were to complete construction of the Lichfield Canal Aqueduct and to secure funding and agreements for a new Cappers Bridge, both of which were accomplished. At the same time voluntary restoration work was continued and progress made with land acquisition and many other activities.

Two Directors retired during the year and three officers were co-opted to the Board. A new Minutes Secretary and other officers were appointed. Honorary appointments as Patrons were accepted by three of our most distinguished supporters, and our Vice-President continued to help publicise our major fund-raising appeal. The Directors approved a Vision Statement and finalised a Strategy for Completing Restoration. Meetings were held with British Waterways and local authorities, and responses were made to a number of planning applications and Local Plan policies affecting the canal routes.

On the M6 Toll motorway, construction of the aqueduct substructure was completed and all stage payments were made, although the final account was still awaited at the year end. The David Suchet Appeal continued to raise funds for the aqueduct throughout the year and the Manifold Trust grant was progressively drawn down. The contract for the steel trough was authorised in stages as funding was secured and it was successfully installed in August. After finishing works, an inauguration ceremony was held in October, marking the completion of the major elements of the work to secure the route of both canals.

The aqueduct expenditure was used to match-fund an additional ERDF grant of over £½million for Cappers Bridge and the design and construction work was contracted with Staffordshire County Council. Delays in obtaining planning consent and landholder agreements were still being addressed at the year end. The previous ERDF grant for professional reports on the Hatherton Canal was contracted out to BW to meet GOWM time limits.

Restoration work by our own volunteers continued at Tamworth Road where the chamber repairs, a gate quadrant and the top part of the bywash at Lock 26 were completed and preparation work for strengthening walls on Lock 25 was commenced. Further excavation was also carried out, and hedgelaying was completed at Fosseway Lane. On the Hatherton Canal assistance was again given with the Hedgerow Project, invasive trees removed and the towpath regularly maintained. Our mobile plant was modified to meet new regulations and Risk Assessments were produced for all work projects. Two awards were received for our environmental work.

The purchase of private land on the Hatherton Canal diversion route was negotiated, with ERDF funding, and the conveyance of adjacent County Council land was also agreed. The purchase of small areas of land near the aqueduct and at Cappers Lane was agreed and the long-running landowner boundary dispute at Fosseway Lane was finally settled in favour of the District Council with a contribution from the Trust. Negotiations for several other sites were also progressed.

Considerable funds were raised during the year through the David Suchet Appeal and from grants, and turnover exceeded £1million. An expert on VAT was engaged on commission to help avoid and recover the tax, resulting in a decision to obtain voluntary registration.

Our Marketing Group again attended many local and national waterway events with the sales and promotion stand, and talks were also given to various groups. Widespread publicity was obtained for the Trust's activities in local papers and national magazines and on television. The web site was further developed and regularly updated. Our quarterly magazine included colour pages for the first time, and membership increased from about 1300 to 1400 during the year.

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