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New Compasses Bridge Approved

Restoration of a historic waterway in Surrey is being stepped up now plans for the key part of the project have been approved.

Planning permission for a new bridge just granted by Waverley Borough Council will enable more than a mile of the Wey & Arun Canal to be re-opened for use by small boats.

The bridge is to be built at one of the entrances to Dunsfold Aerodrome, at the end of Three Compasses Lane in Alfold, replacing a wartime concrete causeway which currently blocks the waterway.

It is part of Wey & Arun Canal Trust’s plan to revive the 19th Century canal between Tickner’s Heath in Dunsfold and Fast Bridge on the A281 at Alfold, its first navigation restoration project in Surrey.

Trust director Tony Ford, a chartered civil engineer with extensive experience of designing roads and bridges, is in charge of the project. He aims to have contractors starting the work next month.

“The planning permission for the bridge, and realigning the road, means most of what we need for the restoration in this section of the canal is in place,” said Mr Ford.

“We have already done extensive work in de-silting and re-profiling the canal and now work can start on the new bridge. This represents a big step forward in the trust’s overall restoration project.”

The construction teams and volunteer working parties will be based in a compound made available by the aerodrome owner, Dunsfold Park.

With the bridge ready for use and the causeway demolished, small boats, canoes and kayaks will be able to travel freely for one-a-quarter miles in a ‘green corridor’ that will also benefit other countryside enthusiasts.

Volunteers will be enhancing and protecting flora and fauna through landscaping the canal banks and installing bat and bird nesting boxes in trees. A viewing platform and interpretation area will also be installed next to the bridge.

It is hoped to officially re-open the restored section next year in time for the 200th anniversary of the northern part of the 23-mile long canal being declared open at the Compasses site in September 1816.

Although much of the work to be carried out by contractors is fully funded, around £280,000 is still needed to complete the £700,000 restoration project. To make a donation, or volunteer to help with the finishing work, visit www.weyandarun.co.uk.