In a bid to enhance accessibility and expand the National Cycle Network in West Yorkshire, a significant portion of the renowned Leeds & Liverpool Canal between Shipley and Saltaire is slated for improvement in the coming New Year.

Commencing on January 15th and spanning approximately 12 weeks, the renovation will focus on a two-mile stretch of towpath between Otley Road Bridge and Hirst Lock. Notably, the segment encompassing Victoria Street Bridge near Shipley to Hirst Lock will be temporarily closed during this period.

Sustrans, a charitable organisation dedicated to promoting walking, wheeling, and cycling, is collaborating with the Canal & River Trust and Bradford Council for this project. The objective is to resurface and widen the towpath to 2.5 metres, adhering to national guidelines. The overhaul includes installing a new asphalt surface complemented by a natural stone gravel finish, addressing muddy potholes and ensuring a seamless route.

This development aims to enhance towpath accessibility for individuals using wheelchairs, mobility scooters, and other aids, catering to families with buggies, pedestrians, and cyclists alike.

Simultaneously, local students are engaged in creating a mural on the currently graffiti-covered Otley Road Bridge wall. The theme, ‘Where could the towpath take you?’ adds a creative touch to the project.

Part of a national initiative spearheaded by Sustrans and funded by the Department for Transport, the Shipley Towns Fund has also committed £23,500 to this venture, specifically directed towards towpath improvements.

This particular canal stretch is a popular route for commuting to work, school, shops, services, and attractions, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Saltaire.

Josh Molyneux, Sustrans Network Development Manager for Yorkshire said: “This section of canal is extremely popular as a footpath and cycleway. The work will make it easier for many more people to use and enjoy the path.

“It’s a fantastic route for heritage and nature, as well as a direct link to schools, workplaces and attractions. This work is part of our wider strategy to help improve the quality of the National Cycle Network and link it better with places people want to go to.”

Sean McGinley, director Yorkshire & North East at Canal & River Trust, said: “It’s a timely moment for the towpath upgrade to take place, 250 years after this section of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal was opened in 1774. As a charity it’s so important that we work with other organisations to keep our canals alive. Our historic waterways are living museums, where past and present meet. It’s remarkable to see how these ‘former motorways’ of the industrial age have transformed into green corridors, where nature can flourish and people can enjoy the benefits of spending time by water.”

Bradford Council’s Portfolio Holder for Regeneration, Transport and Planning Councillor Alex Ross-Shaw said: “As a Council, we are keen to encourage active travel such as walking and cycling and this is a valuable part of wider work across the district, making it easier for people to get around in a more sustainable and healthier way.”

Chairman of Shipley Towns Fund Adam Clerkin said: “We are delighted to be able to contribute funding towards this important project to make this historic and well-used path more accessible for everyone. This supports our aim to enable more people to enjoy the area, as well as encouraging more active travel.”

This section of the canal towpath forms part of route 696 on the National Cycle Network, with hopes to secure additional funding for further improvements extending up to Skipton in the future. For more information on the Shipley to Saltaire path upgrades, visit link to storymaps.arcgis.com.