Let me start with the Dull and Stressful (but vital) bit.
In last week's blog Ken Oliver mentioned the Examination in Public of the Swindon Borough Council Local Plan for the next fifteen years. The background is that SBC has set out its plans for the next fifteen years covering virtually everything to do with the town, from housing to transport to the environment, and lots in between. Now a Planning Inspector is examining them to decide whether they are 'sound'. He has raised all sorts of questions, to which SBC has responded formally. The Inspector was examining the Plan under twenty or so different headings. Anybody who wanted to speak could register in advance, and say their piece; I put my name down.
We decided that the Trust ought to make its voice heard about at least two topics. The first was the town centre; this covered everything from the regeneration of the centre to office space, to retail space, to transport, and the importance of the leisure and visitor economy. Naturally I spoke in favour of the restoration of the canal and the huge contribution it could make to the economy, and to the visitor experience in Swindon.
The second topic was Green Infrastructure. In this case I was able to support the SBC policy on canals in Swindon, which sees them as part of the green infrastructure, and I emphasised what a contribution they could make.
The Inspector will now spend some months weighing all the evidence presented, and come to a conclusion as to the 'soundness' of the Plan. It is unlikely that he will either reject it or endorse it completely; far the most likely is that he will accept it subject to some changes. The importance is that the Plan will shape the future development of the town, and we have to secure the inclusion of the canal as much as we can.
As I say, a fairly stressful experience, as I was concerned to do the case for the canal justice, in an unfamiliar environment. I gather it is much less intimidating than it used to be - the Inspector tried to make it as informal and friendly as possible, in contrast to the previous position when everybody employed barristers, and it was pretty adversarial.
And so to the fun bit.
Today ( Monday) I had the opportunity to go over to the Chippenham Folk Festival, which the Trust has attended for a number of years. Standing in the background observing, I was very pleased to see an enthusiastic team of Trust volunteers putting on a good display, talking to many interested people, and running trips on the Damselfly on the river. An excellent effort to publicise the restoration of the Canal, and to raise some very welcome funds. Well done the team.