After an absence of about two decades, river cruises are set to return to the heart of the city centre.

The first landing stage is to be installed close to Exeter Bridge from which a fully accessible, electrically powered narrow boat will cruise a 2.5km route to the island near Darley Mills with the first cruises expected in summer 2019.

The project is being undertaken by the Derby and Sandiacre Canal Trust as the first stage of a bigger, ambitious project to develop it into a major tourist attraction.

A future phase would create the Derby Arm – a boat lift that would lift boats out of the restored Derby and Sandiacre Canal in Pride Park and bring them down to the River Derwent.  Locks would be built to make the river accessible where there are weirs, in the Lagoon at River Gardens and at Darley Mills.

There are only two existing boat lifts in the UK, one of which, the Falkirk Wheel in Scotland draws 650,000 visitors per year.

derby arm boat lift
The proposed Derby Arm boat lift

At their meeting tomorrow (14th November) Cabinet is being asked to approve a grant of £55,000 for the canal trust to purchase of a narrow boat and construct the first mooring point.

The grant is being co-funded by the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) through their £1.65m investment in Derby’s placemaking and public realm project. This aspect of the Connected Cycle City and Placemaking Project is to provide access to the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage site.  Derby City Council is providing £7,000 and the D2N2 LEP £48,000.

D2N2 LEP is the private sector-led partnership that promotes economic growth across Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire.

Director of Derby and Sandiacre Canal Trust, Chris Madge said:

This is an exciting project and will help to reconnect Derby to the river and an important part of its heritage. It is also a vital first step to creating hundreds of new jobs, offering a more diverse tourism product that will be recognised nationally in conjunction with the revitalised Silk Mill Museum of Making and providing a catalyst for private sector investment. The canal restoration will also create a sustainable method of transport, whilst enhancing and protecting the natural environment.

Leader of the Council, Councillor Chris Poulter said:

I applaud the trust for their foresight and keen interest in helping to enhance the offerings in Derby which will boost the local economy. We at the council are very pleased to support the trust in bringing the river back into use. This will open up the riverside for more local people to enjoy and help to create a vibrant Derby.