Canal paths forming the gateway to the Yorkshire Dales are to be transformed as part of a £2m scheme to make the waterways accessible for visitors as a year-round destination.
Towpaths along the Leeds Liverpool Canal, linking communities to the north and south of Skipton, can become boggy and impassable in wet weather, campaigners have said, with plans commissioned for their reform over five years ago. Now, as additional Government grants of £1.46m are secured, campaigners say work can finally begin to transform one of the area’s best loved scenic routes into something that is accessible to all.
“I’m delighted that this funding has been secured – we know residents are keen to see these improvements take place so they can make the most of their local canal towpath,” said Coun Simon Myers, Craven District Council’s lead member for Enterprising Craven.
“This project will be a huge benefit to our local communities and will also allow more visitors and businesses to make the most of the historic Leeds & Liverpool Canal.
“It will create a family-friendly route that balances the needs of modern day visitors against the 200-year heritage of the canal.”
The Leeds & Liverpool Canal, at 127 miles, is the longest canal in Britain built as a single waterway. Completed in the mid-18th Century, it had flourished as northern industry grew, forming a key rival to the railways for trade and coal transportation.
It’s use has changed over time, and it is now popular with walkers, cyclists and canoeists, particularly in the summer months.
In winter though, campaigners have long warned, it can become inaccessible in parts due to muddy conditions, and Craven Council commissioned an access development plan, drawn up by Sustrans in 2013, to look at how this could be changed.
With funding of £1.46m now agreed from the Rural Development Programme for England, alongside £500,000 set aside by Craven Council and the Canal and River Trust, it is hoped that work can begin this year to transform 11km of route, between Skipton and Gargrave and from Bradley to Kildwick.
It comes alongside improvement works totalling a further £320,000, agreed in July, to bring the canal waterfront in Skipton back to its best after years of decline.
Together, said Coun Myers, the project will enable the canal to be transformed as a gateway to the Yorkshire Dales.
Sean McGinley, regional director Yorkshire and North East at Canal & River Trust, added: “Once complete, it will ensure locals and visitors can enjoy their local canal towpath throughout the year, whether that’s on the early morning dog walks, taking the kids for a weekend stroll, or cycling to work.”