SECTIONS of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal – which passes through Keighley and South Craven – could be forced to close if maintenance costs can't be met.

That's the warning from the Canal & River Trust, which says a cut in Government funding "threatens the future" of the nation's canals.

According to the trust, grant funding will be reduced by over £300 million in real terms across a ten-year period from 2027.

At the same time, the organisation is battling with soaring bills to repair the canal network, as periods of drought and extreme storm events take their toll.

Richard Parry, for the trust, says: "We are tasked by the Government to care for and manage safely this important and historic infrastructure.

"Government has confirmed the value and importance of the nation’s canals and their vital role in our health and wellbeing, for wildlife and nature, and in supporting jobs and the UK economy. Yet, at the same time, it has announced a funding decision which puts the very future of canals at grave risk.

"By sharply reducing investment, the Government is failing to recognise the full cost of sustaining the vital benefits canals provide. We have ambitious plans for continued growth in income from donations, investments and other funding streams and are also growing volunteer numbers to help with our work. However, even taking these into account, the decision by the Government leaves a substantial shortfall which puts decades of restoration and recovery of these much-loved waterways at risk. The scale of the funding reduction would mean deep cuts to canal maintenance and repair, leading ultimately to closures.

"Our industrial canal heritage is as vital today as it was in the past, bringing the benefits of green space and nature corridors into urban areas, as well as contributing to flood defences and transferring water to areas of shortage."

He is urging the public to support a campaign against the cuts, at

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs says it has been made clear to the trust since it was created that it would have to increasingly move towards alternative sources of funding.

A spokesperson added: "To date we have awarded £550 million in funding and are supporting the trust with a further £590 million between now and 2037 – a significant sum of money and a sign of the importance that we place on our canals."