A STRETCH of towpath has been closed after a section of banking toppled into the Leeds and Liverpool Canal due to recent heavy rainfall.

Council engineers have closed off part of the towpath between Sandygate and the George Street footbridge in Burnley after the footway crumbled.

Last September a four-metre stretch of banking slipped into the waters in Rishton, prompting major repairs and leaving canal boat firms frustrated.

The waterway was closed between New Barn Bridge and Rishton Bridge and four sinkholes were discovered in the base of the canal by engineers, leading to a longer-than-anticipated closure.

Following the latest slippage in Burnley, discussions have been ongoing between the borough council, Envronment Agency and Canal & River Trust.

It is expected that the towpath, on the town side of the canal, and canal itself will remain closed for around four weeks – though attempts will be made to shorten the period.

Boat owners have been alerted to the shutdown – though traffic is limited in the winter months.

Work has been ongoing further along the canal bank to regenerate Slaters Terrace and convert neighbouring Victoria Mill into East Lancashire’s first university technical college, as part of an initiative dubbed ‘On The Banks’. Part of the operation also involved draining a section of the canal, so work could be undertaken on a 200-year-old culvert, exposing 200-year-old crustaceans which were later deemed a health hazard.

Mike Cook, the council’s economic regeneration director, said: “This is a very old historic area we are dealing with and the recent spell of heavy rain seems to have weakened this area of wall.

“We have teams on site working to resolve this issue and make the environment safe in order to re-open the canal as soon as possible.

The towpath will also be closed temporarily.”