Inventor calls for a canal museum to be created in Birmingham

Terry Fogarty with a model of his diagonal lock

Terry Fogarty with a model of his diagonal lock

A Midland inventor is calling for a canal museum to be created in Birmingham, as part of a wholescale transformation of the dilapidated Camp Hill Locks area.

Terry Fogarty wants the Camp Hill Locks section on the Grand Union Canal to be given similar treatment to the waterways around Brindley Place, which were brought back to life and now form an integral part of Birmingham’s visitor offer.

The 78-year-old, who is managing director of Fogarty Castings based in Acocks Green, believes the neglected site would be the perfect location for a musuem, given Birmingham’s role in the Industrial Revolution and the history of canal building, as well as its location at the heart of Britain’s canal network.

He is also believes the site should become the first location for his trail-blazing diagonal lock invention, which would offer a more efficient way of moving boats between different water levels than the traditional canal lock.

A single diagonal lock could replace six locks at Camp Hill and Mr Fogarty feels installing one would help kick-start the development of the whole area and allow for development including a museum, bars and shops.

“Camp Hill has been an eyesore for the last 85 years and Birmingham City Council have struggled to improve it,” said Mr Fogarty.

“Camp Hill has always been a cesspit due to lack of investment. It’s the conjunction of three means of transport – road, rail and canals.

Camp Hill Locks

Camp Hill Locks

“There have been lots of reports over the years, all saying something needs to be done.

“The bottom line is there is only so much you can do. There is a desperate need for something to be done there but I genuinely believe it could be turned into Birmingham’s jewel in the crown.

“It’s often heard that Birmingham has more miles of canal than Venice but despite all that’s been done once you leave Brindley Place it deteriorates quite badly.

“The Canal & River Trust know too – their handbook acknowledges it, describing it as a place of mad chaos and confusion, where road, rail and canals come together.”

Mr Fogarty envisages a diagonal lock being part of wider development, which would include bars and shops and a canal museum.

He said: “The city has done so much for Gas Street and Brindleyplace but Camp Hill has been completely neglected. The whole area needs upgrading, with a diagonal lock to replace the old locks. They need to radically restructure Camp Hill.

“You would replace six existing locks with one diagonal lock and you would then build a roof converting the canal section into a tunnel.

“It would be a massive construction, well-lit, with shops and pubs, 40ft wide with a concrete roof on top.

“It would turn the whole area into a tourist attraction.”

Mr Fogarty also believes installing a diagonal lock could help facilitate the restoration of the long-gone Camp Hill railway line linking Kings Heath with Moor Street station.

Passenger transport authority Centro announced plans eight years ago to develop parts of the disused train line in south Birmingham, which would see the re-opening of Hazelwell, Kings Heath and Moseley stations among others.

The stations, which have not been used since their closure in 1946, would provide residents in several suburbs with a key link to the city centre.

“There’s no easy way of building a railway line without doing something really amazing to the canal system,” said Mr Fogarty.

“With a diagonal lock and tunnel it would make that possible.”

The diagonal lock works on the principle of a sloping tube, which cuts out time spent by canal users negotiating flights of locks.

Mr Fogarty has won backing in high places for the invention, which he started developing more than 12 years ago, but he is still waiting to see the first one built.

He feels its adoption is hampered by a dearth of investment in Britain’s canal network, though he has hopes the first could be installed in Daventry as part of ambitious plans to link the town to the canal system.

As well as receiving assistance to develop it from global engineering business Ove Arup, Mr Fogarty has also been supported by Meriden MP and former Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman.

He also met with Birmingham City Council leader Sir Albert Bore to explain its benefits, particularly in relation to Camp Hill Locks.
Following the meeting Sir Albert described the diagonal lock as “very impressive” and said he felt it had potential.
The idea has also had the backing of the Canal & River Trust.