Drought could close part of Leeds and Liverpool Canal

Nearly half of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal could be closed as the North West struggles with its worst drought since 1929.

British Waterways has announced that a 60-mile stretch will be shut from 2 August unless there is significant rainfall in the next two weeks.

The closure would run from Wigan in Greater Manchester to Gargrave in North Yorkshire.

It would affect up to 2,000 boat owners and several businesses.

Water supplies from the seven reservoirs that feed into the 127-mile long thoroughfare would be cut off.

The remainder of the canal would stay open for navigation, but there would be a restricted lock schedule to reduce the affect on neighbouring waterways.

A British Waterways spokesman said the closure would be a "highly unusual step" but the lack of rain and the unusually high temperatures left it with little choice.

'Impact on wildlife'

Vince Moran, operations director for British Waterways, said: "We have been doing all we can over the last three months to conserve water levels within what is a popular and 200-year old working canal, and we would only close it as a last resort.

"However, our reservoirs are expected to have fallen to 10% of their capacity by the start of August, at which point we must close off the water supply so as to be better able to manage the impact on navigation and wildlife.

"We anticipate the restrictions continuing through the current drought but will reopen the canal as soon as sufficient water supplies become available.

"In the meantime we are contacting all affected customers, including boaters, hire boat companies and angling clubs and will do all we can to minimise the impact on them during this difficult period."

The Leeds and Liverpool Canal is Britain's longest manmade waterway. It was used to carry coal, limestone, wool, cotton, grain and other farm produce.

It is now primarily used for leisure boating, walking, angling and cycling.

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