Spike Island protest: Hundreds turn out as house building rumours dispelled amid wildlife relocation project

Water levels have fallen and wildlife has been relocated.

<p>Protestors from Save our Sankey Canal at the weekend. </p>

Protestors from Save our Sankey Canal at the weekend.

Hundreds of people turned out in Spike Island over the weekend to protest over falling water levels, as the council leader branded claims it wanted to allow housing development there as having ‘absolutely no truth’.

A section of the Sankey Canal and Spike Island have seen water levels reduced drastically in recent months following the closure of Fiddler’s Ferry Power Station.

The canal had been supplied with water by the station since 1983 until it was decommissioned in March 2020. Temporary water pumps had been set up to keep water levels stable but that now too has ceased. The move means water levels are dropping and wildlife has had to be relocated.

On Saturday, a demonstration was organised by Save our Sankey Canal, with hundreds turning up throughout the afternoon to make their feelings known.

Aerial shot of the reduced water levels at Spike Island.

Halton Council – which is responsible for operating the stretch of canal – said it is ‘commited’ to finding a solution and said it plans to meet with the group soon.

Lyndsey Byrne from Save our Sankey Canal – which now has around 3,000 members – said she was ‘overwhelmed’ but ‘not surprised’ at the scale of Saturday’s turnout.

She told the LDRS: “We’ve done it to show everybody how much Spike Island means to us all. We want the council to know how much it means to us, we know they’re working hard behind the scenes to find a solution. We’ve got a forthcoming meeting with the council so we hope theres’ going to be some kind of plan and some answers.”

Marley Hannah, 10, of Widnes, was one of the many who headed down there with his family. He said: “I wanted to help spread the word because people love coming to the canal. I love coming here to see the wildlife, there’s not many swans in there now and there used to be loads.”

Marley Hannah, 10, of Widnes, was one of the many who headed down to Spike Island.

In a message to campaigners, Cllr Mike Wharton, leader of Halton Borough Council, said: “I do hear and understand your concerns.

“I want to assure you again of the council’s long term commitment to both the Sankey Canal and Spike Island and to finding solutions to the current issues.

“Local interest groups have been invited to meet with senior council officers, so that the officers can listen to the groups’ concerns and for information to be shared about previous efforts and current plans to address the issues.”

He added: “I hope at the meeting there will also be an opportunity to dispel some of the rumours that are currently circulating – including that the council plans to develop Spike Island for housing – which has absolutely no truth.

“As a result of these discussions, I really do hope that people will be reassured of our good intentions for the canal and Spike Island.”

The council said it is using the low water levels to carry out repairs and improvements and that fish rescue efforts would continue.

To date, approximately 13,000 fish (mostly roach, perch and bream) have been moved under license and agreement with the Environment Agency. And 14 large carp and five large adult bream have also been safely moved to local waters.

In addition, work to clear out the rubbish that has accumulated over the decades remains on-going. Numerous clean-up exercises have been carried out since May which has resulted in more than six skips of waste, rubble and other items being removed, as well as a significant number of tyres and a large quantity of scrap metal.

Opened in 1757, Sankey Canal was England’s first of the Industrial revolution, and the first modern canal. Before Fiddlers Ferry began pumping water, the canal was derelict for 20 years and for much of that time it had very little water in it. The water that kept it filled in its operational years came from the Car Mill area.