Canal Towpath Improvements

Improvements to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal towpath through Burnley have been completed.

The work included widening and resurfacing a 1.2 mile stretch of the towpath between Westgate and Yorkshire Street, and improving the access point at Manchester Road where steps were altered to incorporate an access ramp.
Councillor Cunliffe, Burnley Council’s executive member for sustainable development and economy, said, “The upgrading of the canal towpath has made a huge difference along this stretch of the canal and it’s great to see it completed.

“As well as a home for wildlife and nature, the canal is used and enjoyed by visitors, walkers and cyclists every day. It’s an historic and peaceful ‘green’ route through the heart of the town and these improvements will encourage more people to use it.”

Rachel Daley, project manager for the Canal & River Trust, said: “Research shows that spending time by water is good for our physical and mental health. These towpath 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 towpath improvements possible for the benefit of the local communities the canal runs through, especially as our charity’s public funding has been significantly reduced.

“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.”

The project was delivered by the Canal & River Trust, in partnership with the council, and funded by the Government’s Levelling Up fund as part of a £20 million package secured by Burnley Council. The towpath work is part of a wider scheme to enhance links between Manchester Road railway station, the University of Lancashire (UCLan) campus and the town centre.

visual from canal and river trust showing people walking on improved towpath surface near Inn on the Wharf

A note about towpath widths

The government’s Local Transport Note (LTN) provides guidance to local authorities on delivering high-quality cycle infrastructure, which has been considered when developing plans for the canal towpath improvements, including desirable and minimum track widths.

As well as LTN 1/20, consideration must be given to the Canal & River Trust’s own policy ’Better Towpaths for Everyone’, with particular reference to policy no. 8 regarding width…

‘Towpaths are, by their very nature, narrow spaces but many are suitable to accommodate multi-use. Where appropriate, we have already ‘widened’ the path (i.e. the surfaced path area within the towpath corridor) as this is often the best way to ensure that they are used safely and that conflict between visitors is minimised. We will continue to look for opportunities to optimise space where we can but we will not do this at the expense of the character of the canal.

Front and back verges are an important part of this character and also have an important function as they provide places for boats to moor, safe havens to fish, a tactile warning of the water’s edge and increase the biodiversity of canals. It is not possible to set a minimum standard for path width as all canals have unique characteristics which are often defined by their original design’.

With LTN and the Policy in mind, the Canal & River Trust have reviewed the information from site surveys and have produced design drawings to show what proposed widths can be achieved. On average, a width between 1.8 – 2.0m can be achieved throughout this stretch of towpath, and there just two locations where the absolute minimum of 1.5m cannot be achieved due to the existing arrangement.

A note about bridge 130b access arrangements

As part of the towpath improvement project, there is an aspiration to improve access at Bridge 130B. The intention is to improve the stepped arrangement as part of the works, but there is also an opportunity to create some form of ramped access alongside the steps.

For an access ramp to be DDA compliant, the gradient should be 1:20 desired, with 1:12 the maximum allowable grade over shorter distances. The existing grass ramp alongside the stepped ramp suggests there is around 2m level difference from top to bottom. This indicates the existing straight grade from top to bottom is around 1:60.

Therefore, to aim for some form of DDA compliance with a gradient of 1:12, a 2m level difference would require significant infrastructure works to support the ramp. Also, at 1:12, the new ramp surface levels would conflict with the position of an existing fire door arrangement and would conflict with the level of the windows of the adjacent building. The intention therefore is for the existing arrangement to be upgraded purely on the grounds of betterment.