Upgraded canal towpath sections now open

18 May 2021

Work to upgrade sections of the Shropshire Union Canal towpath between Chester and Ellesmere Port is now almost complete.

Work began in September 2020, which has been developed through a partnership between Cheshire West and Chester Council and the Canal & River Trust, who hold the guardianship of the canal and towpath.

Three sections of towpath have been upgraded, part of National Cycle Routes 45 and 70, with work including widening, improved surfacing and access points. The project has used the latest sustainable high-quality recycled materials for the northern sections, reducing waste while being more economical and environmentally friendly to use. This has created a more natural appearance, in-keeping with the canal’s surroundings.

The scheme has been delivered on time and to budget, despite the challenges of working during the pandemic and the extreme weather conditions brought by Storm Christophe earlier in the year.

All sections of the canal towpath are now open. However, a further top layer is required to complete the work and seal the path along the southern section within the City centre and newly upgraded access points.  This work is weather-dependant, so once temperatures improve it will be laid during late Spring 2021.

The Council’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Environment, Highways and Strategic Transport, Councillor Karen Shore said: “We all need to be able to get out and about to enjoy nature now spring has arrived, so we took the decision to open the towpaths now, while we wait for better weather to complete the finishing touches.

“A total of 4.7km of walking and cycling path has now been completed to improve access to employment, housing, retail and leisure opportunities.  The scheme has also provided health and environmental benefits by making cycling and walking safer and easier, plus this supports the Council’s Climate Emergency declaration and commitment to help west Cheshire to become carbon neutral by 2045.”

Rebecca Mason, Enterprise Manager at the Canal & River Trust said: “We’re delighted to have worked with Cheshire West and Chester Council to complete these much-needed improvements to the towpath along the beautiful Shropshire Union Canal between Ellesmere Port and Chester.

“Improving this stretch will mean local people and visitors can enjoy the wildlife and use the towpath for walking, cycling and angling.  Being by water is great for boosting your mental health."

The sections of the towpath that have been upgraded are:
  1. Between Bridge 134 – Bridge 133 Section of the canal between Chorlton Lane/ Caughall Road past Chester Zoo to Liverpool Road canal bridge (northern section).
  2. Between Bridge 133 – Bridge 131continues the canal section above from Liverpool Road to the area adjacent to Old Oaks Golf course (before Countess of Chester Hospital) (northern section)
  3. Between Bridge 123 – Bridge 122B Section of canal from A51 Vicars Cross (near Chester Boughton Hall Cricket club) to the A41 near Pearl Lane. (southern section)
The scheme cost £1.22m, consisting of £460,000 of funding secured from the Cheshire & Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership’s Local Growth Fund and £760,000 match funding from the Council (including developer contributions).

These upgrades complement a project completed in 2019 at Thornton Road, Ellesmere Port, which linked the canal towpath to Cheshire Oaks retail area via a new pedestrian footbridge. 

The Council will continue to work collaboratively with local stakeholders through the Active Travel Forum and key partners including; Sustrans, Canal and River Trust, Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership and the Department for Transport to seek future funding opportunities to deliver safe walking and cycling pathway improvements along the remaining sections of the Shropshire Union Canal.

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