£3 million canal breach caused by human error

A major breach in the Shropshire Union Canal which will cost about £3 million to repair was caused by human error, it has been revealed.

The canal breach. Photo: Canal & River Trust
The canal breach. Photo: Canal & River Trust

In March, a 70 metre stretch of the waterway in Middlewich, Cheshire, was washed away after the canal overflowed - leaving a 12m deep hole.

The Canal and River Trust said the paddle gates on the locks, which allow water into the canal, had been left open by a member of the public.

This caused the canal to overflow, resulting in a section of the 200-year-old embankment being washed away.

The Canal and River Trust said the paddle gates on the locks, which allow water into the canal, had been left open by a member of the public

Contractors have been working over the last few months to install dams either side of the breach, removing dangerous trees and rescuing stranded boats.

Andy Johnson, senior project manager at the Canal and River Trust, said a huge amount of work has already gone into the project to repair it.

He added: "A great deal of work has been completed to get to the point where we can actually start to repair this huge hole.

"Behind the scenes, specialists have been ensuring the ecology, heritage and environment around the breach is safeguarded and engineers have been working on the complex design plan required to repair the canal."

The canal breach. Photo: Canal & River Trust

The trust hopes the canal, which runs through Whitchurch and Ellesmere, will re-open to boats by Christmas.

Mr Johnson added: "I’d like to thank everyone over the last few months for their support and kind donations to help us with the repairs.

"This has really demonstrated the love that people have for the canal which plays an important part in people’s everyday life."

About 15 boats were stranded in the canal after it was drained and more than 10,000 fish needed to be rescued.

Repair works are under way

Three months after the breach, a specialist low loader, equipped with a crane, drove into the canal bed and lifted out the final boat. It was then transported on the low loader to a nearby marina.

Earlier this year, Chris Chambers, chair of the Whitchurch Waterways Trust, and a lock keeper at Grindley Brook and Lower Frankton, said he hoped the closure would bring financial benefits to nearby towns.

He believes the town doesn’t seen the same financial benefit as Ellesmere, which has a canal basin in the middle of the town, and avenues are being explored to get the canal as close to the town centre as possible.

He added: “Here in Whitchurch we are actively exploring ways of getting the canal back as close as possible to the town centre.

“After the canal leaves Nantwich, there are no real facilities for boaters until they get to Whitchurch. While a small percentage of visitors do come into the town, many cruise for another five hours or so, about a day, and move on to Ellesmere, where the canal basin is right in the middle of town.

“Here in Whitchurch We need to key into this lost revenue.”

The breach has restricted boats arriving incoming from the north, but boats wishing to travel north are having to take different routes through the county.

To donate towards the emergency appeal, visit canalrivertrust.org.uk/breach or text LEAK515 to 70070 to donate £5.

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