A £2 MILLION project to transform the Leeds and Liverpool Canal towpath between Skipton and Gargrave, and from Bradley to Kildwick, has been given the go-ahead.

Work is due to get underway this year, with the intention of making the towpath accessible to both residents and visitors.

Following a bid from the Canal and River Trust with support from Craven District Council, funding of £1.46 million from the Rural Development Programme for England through the Rural Payments Agency, has been awarded to improve almost seven miles of towpath.

In addition, Craven District Council has allocated up to £365,000 towards the scheme, including £225,000 from its New Homes Bonus money, and £140,000 from the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Local Enterprise Partnership.

The remaining £136,000 will come from the Canal and River Trust itself.

The project has been developed from the long term Access Development Plan commissioned by the council and written by the charity, Sustrans.

It recommends a phased approach to improving accessibility along the canal - providing safer walking and cycling access into the Dales, as well as connecting up with neighbouring towns and villages.

The scheme will highlight the canal as a year round gateway to the Dales, making it more accessible for residents and enhancing the waterway as a visitor destination for walkers, cyclists, boaters and canoeists.

The announcement builds on the 2016 Department for Transport funded £450,000 scheme to improve the towpath between Skipton and Bradley.

Councillor Simon Myers, the council’s lead member for Enterprising Craven, said: “I’m delighted that this funding has been secured –we know residents are keen to see these improvements take place so they can make the most of their canal towpath.

“This project will be a huge benefit to our communities and will also allow more visitors and businesses to make the most of the historic Leeds and Liverpool Canal."

He added: " It will create a family friendly route that balances the needs of modern day visitors against the 200-year heritage of the canal.

“Together with improvements proposed to take place around the canal in the centre of Skipton, and the work already carried out on the stretch of towpath between Skipton and Bradley, this will make the area even more attractive, transforming the canal as a gateway to the Yorkshire Dales.”

Sean McGinley, regional director Yorkshire and North East at Canal and River Trust, added: “Our research reveals that spending time by water can give people a real boost, improving their physical health and mental wellbeing, so we’re delighted that this comprehensive improvement scheme has been funded and approved.

“Once complete, it will ensure locals and visitors can enjoy their canal towpath throughout the year, whether that’s on the early morning dog walks, taking the kids for a weekend stroll, or cycling to work.”

As part of its contribution, the council will fund a marketing programme to work with businesses in the area on how they can benefit from the scheme, and also work with regional tourism agencies to promote the canal and area to new visitors.

To find out more about supporting the Canal and River Trust, which is a charity, including volunteering, visit: canalrivertrust.org.uk.