Chairman's Report - Winter 2011

Society chairman Alan Stopher gives his inaugural report:

This is my first report having been elected the new Chair of the Society in mid-November. Neville Kenyon has been an excellent leader of HCS over the last 10 years taking the Society forward from reopening in 2001, maintaining good relationships with our partners and supporters, and managing expectations through the initial bedding-in period for the reopened waterway. He leaves the chairmanship on a high note after the successful Bi-Centenary Event at Diggle in September. He will be a hard act to follow.

Although only recently joining HCS’s Council of Management, I have been a member of the Society since the early 1980s and was very much involved in the final push to reopen the Huddersfield Narrow Canal as Huddersfield Canal Company’s Project Director.

My chairmanship starts at a period of great change in the management of inland waterways in England and Wales. New relationships will have to be forged as the Canal & River Trust comes into existence. There will be plenty of scope for new volunteer activities and what is described as ‘local community engagement’. HCS will need to decide the areas on which it should focus and how best to communicate with its members and the outside world. To help bring these and other ideas together, a new business plan will be developed during this Winter.

I must say I enjoyed the Bi-Centenary celebration at Diggle over the weekend of September 18th/19th 2011. It was great to see so many local people enjoying the activities. The Oldham Theatre Workshop production involved many local children and the school provided an excellent base for the players. Even the weather held until the planned closure time. It was an object lesson in how to engage with communities along the canal and my thanks go to all those who played a part in the project, particularly the Oldham Council staff and our own. A lot of work goes on behind the scenes to make such festivals successful but let’s hope it won’t be too long before the Canal Society can stage another event of this nature.

In the meantime, it is pleasing to see work progressing on the new Waterfront project in Huddersfield which is bringing our canal to the surface once more. Twelve years ago it was not possible to identify a suitable site for relocating Sellers Engineering so the canal was buried in a 300-metre long tunnel. Further Education funding, the Council and landowners have enabled the new Kirklees College to be built on what is now a prime site with the canal at its centre. It just goes to show that our 200 year old canal continues to have relevance in the twenty-first century.

Alan Stopher