A 3km stretch of canal towpath, linking Leicester’s Waterside area with Abbey Park, is set for a major revamp.

National waterways charity the Canal & River Trust will carry out work to widen and resurface footpaths alongside the Grand Union Canal, and help improve access to this part of the city’s riverside.

SwansThe project, which will run in phases over the next two to three years, is funded with £750,000 of Governmetn money from the Local Growth Fund, following a successful bid by the Leicester and Leicestershire Economic Partnership (LLEP).

It is part of a much wider joint-programme of work being carried out across the city by the Environment Agency, Canal & River Trust and Leicester City Council.

The first phase of towpath improvements is due to begin on Monday (Feb 22). This will involve reconstructing the section of towpath from Evans Weir, by Soar Island, to the A50 crossing at Soar Island. The towpath will widened up to two metres, wherever possible, and surfaced in a durable tarmac and stone-chip finish to give the appearance of a gravel path.

During the works, which are due to take around three to four months, this stretch of towpath will be closed to the public. Alternative routes for pedestrians will be clearly signed on site.

The Canal & River Trust will carry out the work due to their expertise in towpath restoration and construction. The national charity is entrusted to care for 2,000 miles of waterways in England and Wales. This includes an enormous network of bridges, embankments, docks, reservoirs, towpaths and more.

Charlotte Atkins, Chair of the Canal & River Trust’s Waterway Partnership, said: “The Grand Union Canal provides a wonderful traffic-free route through the heart of Leicester. It’s a place to escape the bustle of everyday life as you make your way into the city on foot or bike, or visit with the family.

“This scheme will make a visit to the canal even more special and enjoyable and what’s most exciting is that it’s just the start in terms of improvements on Leicestershire’s waterways over the next five years.

“I hope that, once finished, people will take the opportunity to get out onto the new towpath and see their city from a whole new perspective.”

City Mayor Peter Soulsby said: “These improvements will help make the towpath between the Waterside area and Abbey Park a really attractive route for walkers and cyclists, as well as protecting a valuable haven for local wildlife.

“This project is part of an ambitious vision to improve access to the city’s waterways, develop existing nature conservation work, and create new locations along the riverside for people to visit and enjoy.”

As part of the wider programme of works taking place across the city, the Environment Agency will also lead a six-year programme of flood risk management, made possible with an award of up to £33milllion of Government funding.

Work is already underway at three key sites – Abbey Meadows, Bath Street and land between Birstall Road and the River Soar. The work is designed to improve the flow of floodwater by landscaping parts of the river floodplain, installing culverts, cutting back overgrown trees and removing obstacles to the river’s natural flow.

This is being complemented by the city’s River Soar Grand Union Canal Access Project, which will involve a range of improvements to make the riverside and waterways more attractive and easily accessible. The access improvements are backed by an additional £1.5million from the Local Growth Fund, along with £500,000 of investment from the Canal & River Trust.

I hope that, once finished, people will take the opportunity to get out onto the new towpath and see their city from a whole new perspective.

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