PROPOSALS to revitalise the waterways of Chester will be showcased when the city hosts a major national festival.
The Inland Waterways Association (IWA) has announced it will hold the national campaign festival on the Shropshire Union Canal in Chester next June.
Hosted by IWA Chester and Merseyside branch, the festival will take place in the Tower Wharf area and the aim will be to promote the use of the neglected Dee branch arm of the Shropshire Union Canal.
Enthusiasts believe reopening historic connections between the river and the canal could see Chester become a top destination for boating holidays.
Regeneration body Chester Renaissance enlisted the IWA, Chester Canal Heritage Trust (CCHT) and the Canal and River Trust (CRT) to help create the new waterways strategy, which is part of the One City Plan.
Brian Phillips, chairman of the IWA Chester and Merseyside branch, said: “We’re delighted with the national support for our waterways festival in Chester in 2014.
“The event will raise awareness about the neglected Dee Branch, raise funds, and demonstrate how a vibrant waterway can boost the local economy.”
A vision document presented to Chester Renaissance suggests the city could become a boating holiday destination like Stratford-upon-Avon, and supports the idea of mixed-use waterfront developments like those in Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham.
The ultimate aim is for the old river lock near the basin to be restored and a new lock to be created near the weir, enabling boats to travel from the Dee Estuary through to Farndon and beyond.
In May, John Herson, chairman of CCHT, said Chester was essentially ‘turning its back’ on the historic waterways around the city.
He said: “At the moment, the canal is underused. It is perceived as something of a dead end – and somewhat problematic.
“This is not just about the canal though. What we are saying is that Chester does not make the most of its waterways.
“If we can get more people using the canal and the river, the area will attract developers, investment and jobs will be created.”
The 2014 waterway festival will take place between June 6 and June 8 and is expected to attract boats from all over the country.
Organisers are promising a colourful event with music, entertainment and children's activities.
The last rally held by the branch in Chester was three years ago when more than 100 craft of all shapes, sizes and ages visited the city along with traders.