As part of our Paths for Everyone programme, Sustrans is working in partnership with the Canal & River Trust and Harborough District Council to improve a stretch of the National Cycle Network which runs along a towpath in Market Harborough, Leicestershire.
Sustrans' Clare Maltby (left) with representatives from Canal & River Trust, Harborough District Council and local MP Neil O'Brien (second from right). Credit: Canal and River Trust
Transforming a muddy stretch of towpath
Work will soon start to transform across one mile of a canal towpath, along the Grand Union Canal, which runs into the canal basin in Market Harborough.
The route is popular with local residents looking for a green, traffic-free route into the town centre.
The improvements will transform a muddy stretch of towpath into something 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 with a new all-weather surface laid and a busy mooring for visiting boats will be improved.
The works will take place over a 15-week period during spring and summer.
Sections of the towpath will be closed for the duration of the works with temporary diversions in place.
The improvements will transform a muddy stretch of the Grand Union Canal which is part of the National Cycle Network. Credit: Canal and River Trust
Working in partnership to create paths for everyone
The initiative is an example of a partnership, involving multiple organisations and funding packages, working at its finest.
As custodians of the National Cycle Network, Sustrans only owns a small portion of the land it sits on which makes collaboration so important.
This scheme will be delivered by the Canal & River Trust as the landowner following a contribution from Sustrans.
The grant was made possible thanks to funding from the Department for Transport as part of the Paths for Everyone Programme.
There was also a further contribution from Harborough District Council secured through a Section 106 agreement from the nearby Wellington Place housing development.
The scheme also has the support of the town’s local MP, Neil O'Brien who recently dropped in to discuss the plans.
On the visit, O'Brien met Clare Maltby, Sustrans' England Director for Midlands and East, representatives of the Canal & River Trust and Harborough District Council.
In total, around £900,000 is being invested to improve the towpath and linkages to the town centre for residents.
Reducing dependence on cars
Clare Maltby, Sustrans' England Director for Midlands and East, said: “Our Paths for Everyone programme is helping to improve the National Cycle Network right across the country, making it easier to walk and cycle.
"The scheme will provide an attractive walking and cycling route into town, reducing our dependence on cars.
"We know that making it easier to leave the car at home creates a better environment for everybody.”
Welcoming the works, Neil O’Brien commented: “I am delighted that the towpath will be significantly improved, meaning it will be possible to walk or cycle alongside the canal at all times of the year.
"The works will allow more people to enjoy this pleasant stretch of the Grand Union Canal, and I would like to thank everyone who has made this project possible.
"I am looking forward to being able to walk along the towpath once it’s completed.”
The Paths for Everyone project
In 2018, our Paths for Everyone review provided an honest assessment of the current state of the National Cycle Network.
It identified several routes where improvements could be made.
In response, plans were drawn up to improve Route 6 amongst many other routes.
Our goal is to create a safe, and accessible, traffic-free network that can be enjoyed by everyone and get people where they want to go.
Around 4.4 million people walk, cycle, wheel, and scoot on the National Cycle Network every year and over 50% of the UK population live within a 20-minute walk or one mile of its paths and routes.
Across the UK, local businesses benefitted by around £1.7 billion from people using the network for leisure and tourism in 2019 alone.