Work begins on upgrading a three-mile stretch of Wigan canal
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The Canal and River Trust, working in partnership with Wigan Council and Transport for Greater Manchester, has secured funding from the Mayor’s Challenge Fund that will improve a stretch of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal towpath that runs for 5.5km from Ell Meadow Lock at Beech Hill to Bridge 42 at Appley Bridge on the border with West Lancashire.
The section forms part of Wigan’s Bee Network connecting the town centre and surrounding areas with traffic-free walking and cycling routes.
The project will see £1.5m invested in transforming what can be a muddy section of towpath, making it suitable for use all year round by people on foot or bike as well as those with wheelchairs or buggies.
As part of the works the path will be widened and a new all-weather surface laid.
The works are being delivered by contractor JN Bentley and scheduled to last around six months. Sections of the towpath will be closed for the duration of the works with temporary diversions in place.
Research shows that time spent by water can help people feel happier and healthier and that the Trust’s waterways bring an annual £1.1bn cost saving to the NHS as a result of people being active along its waterways and towpaths. With more people looking for a local escape on their doorstep, trust bosses say the works will make it easier and more appealing for people to explore and enjoy the canal.
Trust enterprise manager Joe Hildred said: “Research shows that spending time by water is good for our physical and mental health. These improvements are important because it will make it easier for people to access the wonderful Leeds and Liverpool Canal on their doorstep.
“As a charity we’re incredibly grateful for the funding that makes these improvements possible for the benefit of the local communities the canal runs through. It’s great to see how much local people value the canal: their support is vital so that we can continue to protect and preserve our historic waterways and avert the decline we saw last century.”
Aidan Thatcher, director for place at Wigan Council, said: “These towpath works are part of a wider project to make key destinations across our borough more accessible by bike and foot, as part of the Bee Network.
“Phase one of the works has included new signal crossings and path upgrades at Loire Drive, Scot Lane and Laithwaite Park. Alongside these improvement works to the canal towpath, people will have more opportunity to walk or cycle for local journeys.
“The whole Leeds and Liverpool Canal Towpath and Links Scheme is set to create a safe and attractive walking and cycling route for commuters to major employment areas like Martland Park, Robin Park and through to Wigan town centre.”
Richard Nickson, active travel programme director, said: “We’re delighted that work will now commence on this exciting project that will make walking, wheeling and cycling much more appealing and accessible along this stretch of the canal in Wigan.
“The scheme connects Wigan to its surround villages and will enable more people to take up active travel as we build the Bee Network, our vision for a fully-integrated transport network across Greater Manchester.”