|Canal project spells success for local trainees
Cllr Kevin Anderson with Prof Steve Broomhead and Andy Darron, plus Scott, Johnny, Dale, Joe and Gary.
When teams of previously unemployed young people began working on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal towpath in Bamfurlong, south of Platt Bridge, last March, little did they realise what their efforts would achieve.
Their work helped to win a major extension of the contract to refurbish a waterway that links key attractions and communities across the heart of the borough.
Cllr Kevin Anderson, Wigan Council’s cabinet lead for the environment, met the trainees on site at Dover Lock in Abram this week. He said: “This is an excellent project for the young people and for access to Greenheart sites in our countryside. This work had to be conducted carefully as they are close to the Wigan Flashes, which are Sites of Special Scientific Interest.”
The trainees had been employed under a Future Jobs Fund initiative run by the regeneration charity Groundwork. They were working to a £292,000 contract from Wigan Council.
Previously, there was 4km of muddy and sometimes impassable towpath between Bamfurlong and the new Bickershaw South Marina on Plank Lane. Their task was to transform this into a new route for walkers, cyclists and horse riders.
56 local young people took part. Supervisors provided skills for the immediate contract and training courses to help their search for full time jobs. The project has won praise from all of the partners involved, and a new £117,000 contract has been announced to extend the work from Bickershaw Marina to Atherleigh Way.
The tow path is used for commuting and leisure activities by residents and visitors alike for accessibility is crucial. The team carried out construction as sustainably as possible by using recycled materials for paths and seating.
Groundwork’s Executive Director Andy Darron said: “A partnership that delivers a mix of employment support and local physical improvements, plus opportunities for accessing exercise and greenspace is brilliant, it’s what we’re all about. This project is all of those things and a driver for economic development too”.
Scott Fairbrother from Higher Folds said he was proud to work on the project. “I’ve gained loads of skills,” he said, “and with certificates in Health and Safety, fire hazard management and operating site vehicles, I hope I have a decent CV for the future too.”
Prof Steve Broomhead, Chair of the Northwest Waterways Partnership, said: “It’s a win-win scheme - the participants have had valuable experience and their efforts have really benefitted the local waterway and community. With our move to charity status in April 2012 we’re encouraging more people to get involved with their local waterway by volunteering.”