WATERSIDE businesses have reacted with dismay to drought restrictions which are set to close the Leeds and Liverpool canal through Lancashire to boats.

Locks will be closed off from Wigan all the way to Gargrave, near Skipton, from August 2 after predictions that local reservoirs will be running at around 10 per cent of capacity by early next month.

Many businesses, which operate both on and close to the water, will be affected by the restrictions.

The measures are being introduced because water is lost when locks are operated.

British Waterways have said they are looking to relocate boat hire companies in a bid to ease the loss of trade.

Lucien Burkhardt runs Ellerbeck Narrowboats, which operates three pleasure cruise boats from a base near Chorley.

He said the firm was fully booked for the the whole of next month and relocation of the firm would be highly problematical.

He said: “Our boats are fully booked for August. That’s 93 day trips and 10 evening ones.

“This could cost us thousands. We run a narrow boat engineering firm from here so we can’t relocate.

“How can we be in two places at once?

“If the flow from reservoirs is cut off, then the canal will be drained within weeks.

“We are already scraping the bottom as water levels are so low.”

Lesley Yates who has run Canal Boat Cruises, in Riley Green, with husband John and son Lewis, for four years, said they were also booked up.

She said: “Our three boats are fully booked for one week holiday hires throughout August.

“It’s very concerning that the measures are being introduced but we are going to relocate so that we operate from the Skipton area.

“We’re determined that our clients won’t miss out on their holidays.”

The stoppage will also affect the likes of Reedley Marina on the Burnley and Pendle border, and Lower Park Marina, near Barnoldswick.

Jason Fildes, managing director of Reedley Marina, said: “We are disappointed but are just hoping that this is a one-off.”

He added: “We are just praying for rain.”

The company’s own Rosewood Narrow Boat Hire had been transferred to the Llangollen Canal at Swanley, near Nantwich, Cheshire.

The news has also upset other parts of the leisure industry including restaurateurs and publicans.

Claire Young, from the Top Lock, in Heapey, said: “Many of our visitors come to see the lock in operation and watch the boats.

“People get a lot of enjoyment from boating on the canal and it’s a shame these restrictions are being brought in.”