Have your say on £1.86 million plans to improve West Yorkshire’s canal towpaths

Engagement opens on plans to improve key areas of the network to encourage active travel

West Yorkshire Combined Authority has today launched a four-week public engagement programme on plans for a £1.86 million package of schemes which will improve parts of the canal towpath network in West Yorkshire, to enable more people to make more journeys by bike or on foot.

The Huddersfield Narrow Canal and the Leeds & Liverpool Canal are the focus of new schemes to be delivered as part of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s CityConnect programme, which aims to make cycling and walking the natural choice for everyday journeys.

Plans include the resurfacing and widening of canal towpaths and will provide communities along the Aire and Colne Valleys with traffic-free, flat and attractive alternative routes. Along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, there are plans to improve sections of towpath between Apperley Bridge and Shipley, as well as between Silsden and the West Yorkshire border, towards Kildwick. This will build on the work between Riddlesden and Silsden, which were completed in August 2018.

The Huddersfield Narrow Canal towpath would be improved from Milnsbridge to Slaithwaite, extending the works completed between Huddersfield and Milnsbridge in October 2018. The schemes are being developed in partnership with Canal & River Trust, the national waterways and wellbeing charity, as well as Bradford and Kirklees Councils.

Cllr Kim Groves, Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s Transport Committee, said:  

 “We’re pleased to be working in partnership with Canal & River Trust, as well as Kirklees Council and Bradford Council, to continue to develop and improve the canal towpath network across West Yorkshire, providing people travelling by bike or on foot with safe, scenic traffic-free routes. As well as providing missing links in local cycling and walking infrastructure, these improvements are helping open up access to some of our best countryside.” 

Cllr Manisha Kaushik, Deputy Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s Transport Committee, said:  

“Enabling increasing numbers of us to travel by bike and on foot is more important than ever, not only as we look to address the health, transport and economic challenges created by COVID-19, but also in helping us achieve our aim of becoming a net zero carbon economy by 2038.” 

Councillor Alex Ross-Shaw, Portfolio Holder for Regeneration, Planning and Transport, Bradford Council said:

“The section of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal running through our district is a fantastic resource providing miles of attractive waterside path for walking, running and cycling. I know these new schemes have been long sought after from people who enjoy the canal, so I’m delighted we’ve secured the funding to deliver them.

“The proposed improvements will create a well-connected high-quality surface for traffic free sustainable transport as well as a great recreation facility which can be enjoyed by everyone. I encourage anyone who has an interest in the area to take part in this consultation.”

Cllr Peter McBride, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Kirklees Council said:

“We’ve been using these routes for many years, from transporting goods on barges to leisure and commuting uses today, improving them allows them to contribute to everyday life again.  The improvements will bring health and wellbeing benefits whilst also helping reduce air pollution and carbon emissions as more people consider leaving their cars at home.

“Canal towpaths are also great places for less experienced cyclists to find their confidence and are fun places to get daily exercise with your family.  Whether you are walking or cycling these improvements will make it easier, safer and more pleasant to spend time beside the canals that connect our towns and villages.”

Sean McGinley, Regional Director for Canal & River Trust, said:

“During lockdown we saw a significant increase in the numbers of people using the towpaths, demonstrating the importance of the canal network as a blue-green space on the doorstep.

“Improving these sections of the towpath will help towards our goal of a joined-up towpath network, giving local people better access to the many benefits of spending time beside water, whether for a place to keep fit or simply a quiet place to de-stress.”

The overall budget for the package of schemes being proposed is £1.86 million. This includes £500k from the Getting Building Fund, to support the proposed schemes within Bradford, which was recently secured by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, as part of a successful £52.6 million bid to government.

The West Yorkshire Combined Authority and partners are looking to secure the remaining funding for this scheme from the Leeds City Region Growth Deal – a £1billion package of government investment to accelerate growth and create jobs.

The plans are available to view online on the Combined Authority’s Your Voice website from today (Monday 23 November 2020) and people are invited to comment before the consultation ends on Sunday 20 December 2020.