PART of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal towpath between Gargrave and Bank Newton has had to be closed after a vehicle collided with a bridge sending lumps of stone crashing below.

It is believed a walker reported the damage to the listed Changeline bridge after seeing lumps of stone on the towpath. The bridge is off the Gargrave to Little Stainton road and is used by a dairy farmer, residents and for access to Newton Grange Farm and holiday cottages.

Walkers have been diverted off the towpath at Carpenters Lock and instructed to rejoin the towpath on the other side of the damaged bridge.

It is not known who was responsible for the damage to the bridge, which is on a sharp bend and at the top of the single-track road classed as a bridlepath. The bridge, which is the responsibility of the Canal and River Trust, has been made safe and vehicular access has been maintained.

A joint project later this year, or early in 2024, is now expected to take place between the trust and North Yorkshire highways to both strengthen the bridge, which has been hit several times before, and to 'improve' the highway, which in addition to traffic is also used by walkers, cyclists and horse riders.

A spokesperson for North Yorkshire County Council highways team said: "The bridge is the responsibility of the Canal and River Trust, which has made the parapet safe. The road remains open, so access to the dairy and other properties is maintained.

"The parapet will be repaired when a joint project by North Yorkshire Council and the Canal and River Trust to strengthen the bridge and improve the highway is undertaken later in the year."

The spokesperson added it was too early to say what the work would involve and whether the road would need to be closed. A Canal and River Trust spokesperson added: “The latest vehicle strike to Changeline Bridge has caused damage to the structure's masonry. A temporary barrier has been installed and the towpath has been closed while repairs to the bridge are undertaken. A diversion has been put in place and towpath users should follow the signage. We are working as swiftly as we can on the repairs.

“Canal and River Trust is developing a scheme in partnership with North Yorkshire County Council to safeguard the bridge and for highway users. The date for the works is not yet set but it is hoped it will be before April 2024.”