Canal signposts

Towpaths improvements coming soon for Huddersfield canals

The Huddersfield Broad and Narrow Canals will soon be receiving towpath upgrades thanks to the government’s Active Travel Fund. The Active Travel Fund (ATF) sees funds awarded to local and combined authorities for the provision of new infrastructure for walking, wheeling, running, and cycling. The fourth tranche of active travel funding accepted bids until the end of February 2023 with a requirement for construction to be started within the 2023/2024 financial year.

Kirklees Council was ill prepared to apply for funding due to their lack of prior investment in the development in schemes to promote active modes so reached out to the Canal & River Trust (CRT) to provide quotes for continued improvements to the canal towpaths. The West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) were awarded over £17 million by Active Travel England with the Huddersfield canal towpaths to be included in schemes funded.

On 23rd February Chris Knight (Chair) and Chas Ball (Secretary) from Cycle Kirklees cycled the Huddersfield Broad Canal (HBC) and Huddersfield Narrow Canal (HNC) with representatives from CRT, Experience Community, and Marsden Community Forum. The aim was to discuss access, surface quality, and width restrictions along the route. Works on the towpath will include a new surface between Bradley Junction and Aspley Marina on the HBC, and between Slaithwaite and Standedge Tunnel at Marsden.The surface will be up to 2.5m in width, 0.5m narrower than the minimum width in the LTN 1/20 guidance, with pinch points below 1.2m and will be made up of tar and chip over a tarmac base to retain a look of the canals heritage.

Other improvements will include the removal of barriers that restrict the movement of cycles and a reduced gradient alongside canal locks on the HNC. 

Cycle Kirklees support the proposed changes but have written to WYCA and Kirklees Council explaining the need for safe cycle infrastructure on the A62 parallel to the canal routes. The fragility of the current cycle network in Kirklees has been highlighted by the recent closures of greenways and the HNC towpath at Longroyd Bridge due to a collapsing wall. Kirklees Council promote the use of the canal towpaths for walking and cycling and celebrated the opening of the previous improvements to the towpath between Milnsbridge and Slaithwaite but so far have declined to provide funding that would allow the towpath to be reopened or provide a safe road diversion which means that commuters and casual cyclists are required to mix with heavy traffic on the busy Manchester Road.

CRT have also made it clear that due to both physical restrictions and the multi-use nature of their towpaths, they should not be relied upon as a key part of a local cycle network.