A two-mile section of the historic Leeds & Liverpool Canal between Shipley and Saltaire is being improved. It’s part of ambitious plans to upgrade accessibility and extend the National Cycle Network in West Yorkshire.
The Bingley to Shipley path passes through the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Saltaire.
We’re working with the Canal & River Trust and Bradford Council to resurface and widen the towpath to 2.5 metres between Otley Road Bridge and Hirst Lock.
This includes a new asphalt surface with natural stone gravel finish to fill in muddy potholes and create a smooth route.
A section between Shipley and Hirst Lock is closed for around 12 weeks, and will reopen in spring 2024.
Better access to UNESCO site
This section of the path runs through the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Saltaire.
It is popular for people walking and cycling to work, school, shops, services and local attractions.
The work will help to improve the accessibility of the towpath for people using wheelchairs, mobility scooters and other mobility aids to access the path, as well as people walking, cycling and wheeling buggies.
Community art wall
Local students are also creating a mural on the wall of Otley Road Bridge, which is currently covered in graffiti. The theme is: ‘Where could the towpath take you?'
The work is all part of our national programme, funded by the Department for Transport, to create accessible paths for everyone.
The Government-funded Shipley Towns Fund has also committed £23,500 towards the towpath improvements.
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.”
Bringing historical paths into the present
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.
“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.”
Improvements to the Shipley to Saltaire path will make it more accessible to all users. Photo: photojB
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 is part of route 696 on the National Cycle Network.
It currently runs from Leeds to Bingley and links to route 66 to Bradford.
Previous accessibility and surface upgrades were carried out on the route near Five Rise Locks in Bingley, and from the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds to Woodlesford.
Ultimately Sustrans hopes to gain funding to improve and extend the Greenway up to Skipton.