Waterways in and around Northwich are threatened by funding cuts despite being vitally important to our area.

The Canal & River Trust (CRT), which manages a 2,000-mile-long network, faces a £300 million real terms reduction in Government grants.

I’m concerned what this will mean for the River Weaver Navigation and the Trent & Mersey Canal, because well-maintained waterways bring tourists here, preserve our industrial heritage, are a haven for wildlife and promote health and well-being by encouraging people to get out in nature.

I recently visited the 1933 Acton Swing Bridge, which is now ‘swinging’ again. Last summer it was one of three local swing bridges affected by structural issues, causing significant lost trade for heritage steam ship The Danny.

It’s an example of the ongoing challenges involved with maintaining aging structures, not to mention the expense for CRT. 

But a reduced Government grant from 2027 will almost halve the trust’s public funding in real terms.

Money is needed to pay CRT staff who operate the large locks on the Weaver Navigation and it’s my understanding numbers have already been cut due to existing cost restraints. A minimum service standard must be upheld or boaters won’t come.

Adequate finances are essential to cover the expensive but necessary dredging costs to keep the channel open for larger craft.

And I’m aware those behind The Danny and owners of other historic vessels would love to navigate all the way to Northwich town centre in an ideal world. Imagine the buzz that would create at Barons Quay!

Proper funding is also crucial to maintain automated sluice gates that help prevent flooding during increasingly frequent storm conditions due to climate change. That meant a £500,000 refurbishment of the eight sluice gates at the Grade II listed 19th century Dutton Sluices.

And there’s the 1875 Anderton Boat Lift which needs a multi-million pound revamp to the structure and visitor facilities. CRT aims to lodge a major funding bid with the National Lottery Heritage Fund this autumn and will encourage donations but must underwrite any outstanding costs.

If Labour does form the next government, public finances will be challenging given the weak state of the economy.

However, I would champion the cause of Canal & River Trust knowing just how important waterways are to the people, environment and economy in this corner of the world and beyond.