IMPROVEMENT work on three kilometres of canal towpath is set to get underway next month, almost half a year on from when it was due to start.

West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) confirmed the overdue project to improve the stretch of towpath next to the Leeds-Liverpool Canal between Apperley Bridge and Shipley will begin in February.

The initiative, which is sponsored by the Canal and Rivers Trust, will see higher quality surfacing installed, as part of a push to encourage more people to use the routes to walk and cycle.

Funding for the project - which also includes a three kilometre stretch of towpath between Silsden and Kildwick - was announced by WYCA way back in 2020 and it was revealed in March 2021 that work would begin that Autumn.

An official date was never released, but Michael Frazer, Secretary of the Friends of Greengates Cenotaph community group, regularly walks along the Apperley Bridge-Shipley route and described the towpath as a "quagmire in places", with no sign of any work being done as of yet.

WYCA told the T&A the project had been delayed until this year due to issues with contracts.

A spokesperson for WYCA said: “Work on the scheme was due to start in autumn 2021, but delays in signing contracts meant that work had to be postponed.

"The scheme sponsor, Canal and Rivers Trust, now expects work to start in February 2022.”

With Autumn beginning on September 1 and closing at the end of November, according to the Met Office, it will be at least five months since the work was meant start, if it goes ahead as planned next month.

Mr Frazer walked along the route as recently as this weekend and revealed the worst conditions are between Dobson Locks at Apperley Bridge and Field Locks, in the Shipley direction.

People on a Facebook community group for the Greengates and Apperley Bridge area commented about their own struggles with this stretch of towpath.

One woman said she had to "really think" about her dog walks due to the conditions, while a man said it is "near impossible to walk on that way if it's rained a lot".

Mr Frazer said: “We are encouraged by the NHS and Bradford Council via Living Well campaigns to take more exercise because of the beneficial health and well-being benefits, especially if elderly or vulnerable, but many are deterred from walking or cycling alongside the beautiful Apperley Bridge canal because of the very poor state of the towpath, especially towards Shipley.

"Cyclists also need a safer alternative to road use.

"The towpath from Apperley Bridge towards Rodley and Leeds is much better and we urgently investment to deliver the same standard.”