Disabled access campaigners have urged for more to be done to turn a ‘dangerous’ towpath from a no-go area to an entrance to the countryside for all.

Experience Community director, Craig Grimes, is leading the push to ensure that wheelchair users’ voices are heard as part of consultations into an ambitious plan to turn the Huddersfield to Marsden narrow canal towpath into an eight mile greenway for walkers, cyclists and horse riders.

The Huddersfield-based community interest company, which makes short films and go on walks with disabled groups to help them gain confidence to explore the area and stay healthy, said that a lack of accessible rural paths mean that those in wheelchairs who live in the area can be at risk of becoming isolated in their community and are unable to enjoy the region’s stunning countryside.

Craig said: “The towpath could be a fantastic way for disabled people to explore rural parts of the town, which are often out of bounds.

“But at the moment it’s too dangerous for even the most experienced wheelchair user to go on.

“In some areas the paths have crumbled away so they have steep drops and are even treacherous for walkers and some locks and gates are difficult to get around-it’s a real shame.

“It’s vital that we create an entirely accessible towpath in this part of the area because disabled people who live here have very few other options if they want to get into to the countryside.”

Huddersfield Narrow Canal
Huddersfield Narrow Canal
 

He has suggested a raft of ideas to the Canal and River Trust, local councillors and Colne Valley MP Jason McCartney.

He said: “We need to ensure that disabled users’ needs are considered before any work starts on the towpath so that it will be accessible for everyone.

“This includes making sure the path is made both accessible for motorised and manual wheelchairs, which are different sizes to each other.”

A total of £10,000 was granted by the council’s Colne Valley Area Committee in March to fund a study into the Greenway project, which had been previously shelved since being first recommended in 2005.

Craig has also suggested more immediate measures to help people access the towpath.

He said: “We know that the Greenway plan is still in the feasibility stage but by simply displaying more alternative route information on signs so that those in wheelchairs can avoid the troublesome areas would help.

“We hope to get some put in place so we can take groups out along it, like we do on the Huddersfield Broad Canal at the moment.”

Mr McCartney joined Craig to see the issues on the path for himself.

He said: “We need to make sure our public paths are accessible to all.

“Craig showed me the challenges wheelchair users faced on the Marsden to Linthwaite section of the canal, such as padlocked gates and poor surfaces.

“I will be working with Experience, local councillors and the Canal and River Trust to see how this can be improved for everyone’s benefit.”