Plans to improve ‘atrocious’ canal path axed

Reid Anderson on the canal between Todmorden and Hebden Bridge
Reid Anderson on the canal between Todmorden and Hebden Bridge

Plans to improve the canal path between Hebden Bridge and Todmorden have been axed.

The proposals, which were part of the West Yorkshire City Connect programme, had already received Government funding of £1.5 million and detailed designs were drawn up by consultants working for City Connect after a public consultation 12 months ago.

But at a recent meeting of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority Transport Committee it was announced that the project would not be taken forward at this time.

Local cycling campaigner and member of Cycling UK, Reid Anderson, said: “The City Connect website says that the project aims to improve the existing route between Todmorden and Brighouse following the existing National Cycle Network Route 66.

“What is now proposed does nothing of the sort; the Todmorden to Hebden Bridge section has been axed, and the City Connect officers have refused to upgrade Route 66 between Hebden Bridge and Luddenden Foot.

“The condition of the towpath between Todmorden and Hebden Bridge is atrocious, and the A646 is no place for inexperienced cyclists.”

The project involved making improvements to the canal path including cleaning cobbles, widening the towpath in some areas and resurfacing certain parts of the path.

The works were planned to run alongside the flood alleviation schemes taking place across the Calder Valley.

Todmorden town councillor Janet Battye said: “I am really dismayed by this perverse decision which feels like another missed opportunity for the Calder Valley.

“There have been a number of initiatives to improve the use of the canal, a significant increase in cycling since the Tour de France, and more attention given to encouraging people to get fit by taking exercise, and make less use of cars. So I really can’t understand why West Yorkshire have taken this funding away.”

Labour councillor for Calder ward, Dave Young, said: “This is not good news for Hebden Bridge and canal users. I thought it was a high priority, especially after the flooding.

“It’s a shame but I suppose the West Yorkshire Combined Authority have lots of demand for schemes.”

A spokesperson for West Yorkshire Combined Authority said: “At the recent West Yorkshire Combined Authority Transport Committee, approval was given for Rochdale Canal improvements Phase 2 to remain on the reserve list.

“The Combined Authority and Calderdale Council will work with our partners to ensure any further opportunities are actively explored to ensure the scheme design meets the needs of users and ultimately deliver this scheme.

“Improvements to the Rochdale Canal will be made between Hebden Bridge and Sowerby Bridge as part of phase 1 of the works, as well as to the Calder and Hebble Navigation beyond Sowerby Bridge.

“A final programme is being finalised by our partners The Canal and River Trust, with works to start in Spring 2018. The project will provide a high quality route for cyclists and walkers.”

Coun Barry Collins, Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Economic Development, said: “We have an ambition for Calderdale to be the most active borough in the North, so enabling more active forms of travel like walking and cycling is really important to us.

“We are really disappointed that this scheme has been put onto a reserve list, and we are seeking an urgent meeting with officers at the Combined Authority to discuss how we can move the scheme forward. We are determined to complete the work on the route between Stubbing Wharf and Todmorden, and so we are also actively working with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and the Canal & River Trust on a joint European bid to secure alternative funding to make this happen.”