THE Wilts & Berks Canal Trust hopes to give a derelict flight of locks at Pewsham a new lease of life as an attraction for tourists and schools.

The charity wants to transform the former lock-keeper’s cottage into a visitor centre and cafe on the ground floor with a holiday let above.

The dry-dock would be rebuilt, the lime kiln restored, and a nearby engineering workshop could also be used as an outdoor classroom with a natural slate roof.

Pewsham Locks once lifted boats almost 30 feet on their journey from Melksham to Chippenham but fell into disrepair after the canal was abandoned in the early 1900s.

The volunteers have already restored a significant stretch of the waterway between Chippenham and Lacock and say breathing new life into Pewsham Locks would be the most ambitious phase yet.

The project is expected to cost hundreds of thousands of pounds but, if planning permission is granted, the trust would apply to national bodies such as the Heritage Lottery Fund for cash.

The Inland Waterways Association has provided £1,690 towards the planning fees and much of the design was provided free of charge by the trust’s own volunteers.

Colin Fletcher, director of the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust, said: “The charity has been working on this scheme for around 18 months.

“The Pewsham stretch already attracts lots of people of all ages, from families with pushchairs to joggers and cyclists, but we believe there is so much more potential – particularly once the link to the Kennet & Avon Canal near Melksham is restored.

“It would be a big boost to tourism and raise awareness of an important part of our heritage. It would also help to open up the countryside.”

Several residents have already voiced their support for the project. Stephen Pomfret, of Danes Close, Chippenham, said: “This will be of great interest from the point of view of local history, and for the wildlife it will attract. Many people walk or cycle on the adjacent path and this will benefit all of them, and hopefully inspire people to find out more.”

Wiltshire Council expects to make a decision by April 18.