IMPROVEMENTS to the canal towpath between Riddlesden and Silsden have been officially unveiled. A community celebration was held in Silsden last Saturday to mark the ‘re-opening’ of the 2.7km section of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. The resurfacing work was carried out as part of a £2.9m package of government-funded work across the county to boost cycling and walking access along for canals. This was in turn part of West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s £60m CityConnect programme aimed at encouraging more people to cycle and walk.
Among those joining local residents for the official ceremony was Keighley MP John Grogan, who is chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Waterways.
Mr Grogan said: “The Leeds and Liverpool Canal is one of the glories of the North of England and carried the lifeblood of the industrial revolution.
“I hope the completion of work on this section of the towpath today will encourage residents of Silsden and Keighley to make even greater use of it and also attract visitors.
“Standing on the bridge at Silsden, I could not help noticing the contrast between the quality of the new towpath towards Keighley on one side and the poor state of repair on the other side towards North Yorkshire.
“The next task is to get the funding in place to improve the towpath all the way from Silsden across the county boundary to Bradley.
“I am hopeful this can be done in the next couple of years to provide an accessible gateway to the Dales for walkers and cyclists all the way from Leeds and Bradford.”
Also present at the ceremony were Cllr Kim Groves, chairman of West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s transport committee, Bradford Council’s cycling champion Cllr Taj Salam, and Canal & River Trust customer operations manager Mike Marshall.
Cllr Groves said: “As well as providing missing links in local cycling and walking infrastructure, these improvements – alongside other schemes across the region – are helping open up access to some of our best countryside, including the Yorkshire Dales.
“Through our CityConnect programme, the Combined Authority is working in partnership to connect people to employment and opportunities, and encourage more of us to travel in a way which benefits our health, the environment and our economy.”
Michael Marshall, from the Canal & River Trust, said Yorkshire’s canals were at the heart of communities, making towpaths the ideal way for millions of people to enjoy a slice of fresh air in their daily lives.
Cycling champion Cllr Taj Salam said: “I am excited to be part of the programme that provides routes connecting some of the most beautiful and scenic areas of the district, so that people from all walks of life have the opportunity and encouragement enjoy the outdoors and benefit their health.”
Improvement on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, which is part of Sustrans’ National Cycle Network, is one of four canal towpath schemes across West Yorkshire.
The Calder and Hebble Navigation towpath between Sowerby Bridge and Hollas Lane Bridge recently re-opened following improvement works.
Works are currently underway between Huddersfield and Milnsbridge on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal towpath, while the Rochdale Canal is to benefit from improvements to create a 10km route linking Sowerby Bridge to Mytholmroyd and Hebden Bridge.