Chorley's Wheelton Boat Yard set to lose £4,000 a month after the Canal and River Trust closes every lock on the Leeds - Liverpool Canal from Wigan to Skipton

A Lancashire boat yard is estimating £4,000 losses every month because of the lock closures down the Leeds-Liverpool Canal.

Tuesday, 7th August 2018, 8:29 am
Updated Tuesday, 7th August 2018, 9:38 am
Dawn Markland and Andy Young of Wheelton Boat Yard are losing 4,000 a month in business due to the lock closures on the Leeds - Liverpool Canal (Photos: Neil Cross/Johnston Press)

Dawn Markland and Andy Young, who have run Wheelton Boat Yard for the last six years, are quite literally counting the costs of the Canal and River Trust’s decision to close the locks of the Leeds – Liverpool Canal from Wigan to Skipton, North Yorkshire due to recent dry weather.

Dawn said: “For the month, losses are probably around £4,000. We had work lined up but had to cancel it because of the closure. We are not able to take on work because boats can’t get to us.”

The boat yard is a regular hot spot in Lancashire for boat building and maintenance work, with the summer months being its most popular and a way of getting through the quiet period of November to February.

Dawn Markland and Andy Young of Wheelton Boat Yard are losing 4,000 a month in business due to the lock closures on the Leeds - Liverpool Canal (Photos: Neil Cross/Johnston Press)

The closure came in the place in the peak of summer last Monday (July 30).

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“Summer is always busier,” the 44-year-old explained. “It’s a very seasonal business.

“We’ve had no help. From the Canal and River Trust we just had an email saying it’s closed and that was it. It’s not acceptable.”

Dawn Markland has run the boat yard for the last six years

"The only trade the boat yard has at the moment is the current boat being built on-site with it starting prior to the closures. Lucky we can carry on work because of that but if we didn’t have that there would be nothing,” said Dawn, who has worked in the industry for 13 years.

She revealed how the majority of the work before the locks closed was a mad dash to “get them wherever they wanted to go”, with local boats escaping the canal system at Wigan and Blackburn prior to last Monday's closure of the locks.

A spokesperson for the Canal and River Trust said: “We regret having to close some lock flights, but it is unavoidable given the prolonged dry, hot weather and lack of significant and sustained rainfall.

"We’ve been working with boaters and boating businesses throughout the summer to ensure we make the best use of available water and keep them fully informed of the situation.

A locked lock on the Leeds - Liverpool Canal just next to the Top Lock pub in Chorley

"Some hire boat bases have temporarily relocated to other sections of the canal, allowing their customers to still go on their canal boat holiday, and many trip boats continue to operate as normal.

“The canal is still open in many ways and we encourage people to continue to visit this summer.

"While the closures will prevent use of locks, boaters can move within several lock-free stretches, and anglers and canoeists can continue to enjoy their activities. Towpaths are open for everyone to enjoy on foot or by bicycle."

Another business on the canal is Boatel Party Cruises at Botany Bay.

The locks will remain padlocked until September

Owner Neil Hardy said: “It’s been good and bad. The bad is we can’t do our lock tours anymore and the good is because they are closed, the water level is staying at a workable level for business.

“During the summer it’s been so low we’ve been stuck on the bottom; suffering with the water level has seen us scrape along the bottom of the canal.

“Our maintenance of the boats has gone from monthly to weekly. You get rubbish stuck around the propeller like carpet and most recently coat hangers.

“We used to do educational trips with children but can’t anymore due to this. A lot of elderly people would do them too. We had one yesterday where someone wanted to go off down the canal and we had to say no.”

Partner at Heath Charnock-based Ellerbeck Narrowbeats, Lucien Burkhardt, is bucking the trend due to boats lack of need to travel through locks.

Lucien said: “It’s done us a big, big favour.

Dawn Markland and Andy Young

“People say the canal is closed – it’s not. It’s its locks. Our boats don’t go through them anywhere [so] it’s been a very good thing for us.

“I appreciate problems of others that need to go through the locks but from our point of view it’s helping business.”