Halton Borough Council remains fully committed to the Sankey Canal and is working with Warrington Borough Council and others to address the current low water levels on the ‘New Cut’ stretch of the canal. However, with no straightforward solution, restoring the levels may take some time.
An almost two mile section of canal is located within Widnes and is owned and managed by the Council. It was opened in July 1833 as an extension to the historic Sankey Canal. The last operational section of the canal went completely out of use in 1963 and became derelict.
In the early 1980s a cosmetic restoration of the canal took place within the Halton and Warrington areas that included the provision of marinas at Spike Island and at Fiddlers Ferry. As sections of the canal had been filled in north of Warrington, the original water supply was no longer available.
For around 40 years, the canal was kept topped by a water supply at Fiddlers Ferry Power Station used as part of their electricity generating process. However, the closure of Fiddlers Ferry has meant that this water supply is no longer available.
Over the past decade, Halton and Warrington councils, together with the Sankey Canal & Restoration Society (SCARS), have been working on a project, the aspiration of which is to restore the canal to navigation between Spike Island and Fiddlers Ferry marinas.
One of the considerations of this project is finding a permanent and sustainable water supply. Various options have been explored over the years and there are no solutions that are free of difficulty.
Halton and Warrington Borough Councils remain committed to finding a solution – with one potential option being to use existing infrastructure. However, this will take time.
Water levels within the stretch of canal that extends between Spike Island and Fiddlers Ferry Power station are now very low. As there is a risk to fish stocks Halton Borough Council is carrying out a fish rescue programme.
Halton Borough Council Chief Executive Stephen Young, says: “The Sankey Canal is an important feature of our borough. Halton Borough Council remains committed to the canal and working with partners to find a solution that allows it to continue as an important amenity, asset and wildlife corridor. However, this may mean that in the short to medium term our section of the canal will not be as local people have become used to since 1983.
“We are also committed to ensuring that any temporary arrangements do not hamper our longer term ambition of restoring the canal to navigation and maintaining the canal’s heritage value.”
The lower water levels have exposed many dumped and discarded items and a clean-up programme will begin as soon as the fish rescue is completed. In the short to medium term retention of as much water as possible is the priority and various options are being developed to achieve this.
The lower water levels also present an opportunity to closely inspect the infrastructure that previously lay below the water and to carry out repairs where they are needed.
*We are aware of the loss of a number of cygnets in the area. The birds are not nesting in the canal and we are unable to attribute the reasons for the loss.
Council staff monitor the canal every day and we have not seen any dead pike or other animals.
The high tide is this week and we have had two members of staff monitoring the river and lock gates each day at the time of the daytime high tide. This will continue throughout this week on the days when further high tides are expected.
Individuals should not be taking fish from the canal to the square pond. This activity requires a licence and anyone doing so without a licence is acting illegally. Officers have advised individuals on Spike Island of this.
The welfare of the fish has always been one of our priorities, which is why we arranged a fish rescue exercise that began on 12th May and remains ongoing. To date, more than 8,000 fish have been safely relocated to an alternative water body. This week, the fish rescue exercise continues on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
Individuals should not be entering the canal and building dams or carrying out any other works and we would advise members of the public that they must not do this.