Scheme celebrates rich heritage of canal system in Leigh

The stretch of the Leeds/Liverpool canal in Leigh town centre
The stretch of the Leeds/Liverpool canal in Leigh town centre
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A CAMPAIGN has been launched in Leigh aimed at using the canal system as a catalyst for regeneration, benefiting businesses, creating new work opportunities, new homes and a thriving and healthy community where people can live, work and play.

The campaign was launched by Leigh MP Andy Burnham supported by Wigan Council, the Canal & River Trust and the Bridgewater Canal Company. The Council is focusing on Leigh as part of its wider Waterfront Improvements Plan.

Mr Burnham is the Chair of a working group consisting of councillors and officials, the Trust, The Peel Group (who own the Bridgewater Canal), Groundwork Trust, housing groups and local businesses who all recognise how vital the canals are to the local area and community.

The Leeds & Liverpool and Bridgewater canals meet in the centre of Leigh, and the campaign aims to highlight their importance to the town and capitalise on their potential benefits to local businesses, housing and health and wellbeing.

The canals and their historic waterside buildings are seen as crucial to the area’s regeneration with a number of major developments already in the pipeline which will increase the town’s appeal to investors.

Mr Burnham is keen to promote both the business regeneration aspects of the campaign and the healthy lifestyle opportunities, being himself a regular cyclist along the towpath.

He said: “We have a great opportunity to use our fantastic waterways to help us to regenerate Leigh and to provide a great place for local people to visit. The local community, including residents, businesses and schools can play a vital part in improving the area and we rely on people being willing to get involved. A canal festival is being planned for later in the year and this should be a great event.”

Wigan Councillor David Molyneux said: “Leigh and its waterfront have a bright future. There are ambitious plans to develop new homes and businesses around the canal bringing more jobs to the area and a new marina will open later in 2015 increasing tourism in Leigh.

“The improvements proposed will make the canal more welcoming with your help. Major developments, like building work, will inevitably take longer but we will be working hard to make these happen. The canal is a fantastic local amenity, a linear park. It’s unique! We want to encourage people to use it and to keep it clean and tidy. In the short term, we have plans to work with volunteers to tidy up canal, to remove graffiti, and to do other repairs.”

As part of the project the Canal & River Trust will provide new signage to encourage visitors onto the towpath and to tell the story of the two canals. There will be an improved entrance to the towpath from King Street Bridge, with work being carried out by volunteers this year. New mooring rings will also encourage boaters to stop and visit the town.