The closure of the Leeds- Liverpool canal has had a severe effect on businesses in Craven.

A 64-mile stretch of the canal from Gargrave to Wigan was closed for boating last Monday, August 2.

British Waterways blamed the closure on the driest first six months of the year since 1929.

But since it took effect, trade has also dried up for many businesses whose livelihoods are dependent on tourists who hire canal boats.

The owner of Abbots Harbour, a café at East Marton just 50 yards from the canal, has seen trade drop by up to 50 per cent.

“This should a busy time for us,” café owner John Pilling said. “The summer is really a boost to our turnover.”

Mr Pilling said the café was now relying on its regulars and walkers on the canal towpath.

Just a few hundred yards up the road, the Cross Keys pub is also feeling the effects of the canal’s closure.

“There’s been a definite downturn in business,” landlord David Mennell said.

“Trade is down 20 to 30 per cent, but for me it’s the collateral damage that I’m concerned about.”

Mr Mennell said he could be forced to cut the hours of his five full-time and six part-time staff.

“It could get to the point where break-even is a target, rather than making a profit,” he said.

Mr Mennell said he was upset British Waterways had not contacted him about the canal closure. “There has been no information from them at all. It’s appalling that they haven’t been in touch,” he added.

Debbie Foster, who runs the Anchor Inn at Salterforth with her partner Paul Wellock, estimated that half of the pub’s trade came from canal boats. She said: “I can see a difference already this week as a lot of our trade comes from the hire boats.”

Further down the canal at Gargrave, Anchor Inn manager Richard Haffield said while there had been a reduction in trade, the canal closure had not had a huge impact as much of their business came from people travelling through Gargrave on the way to the Lake District.

l Skipton MP Julian Smith is demanding answers from Leeds-Liverpool canal bosses over the waterway’s closure.

He has been lobbied by canal users fearful that a long closure would affect their businesses. Mr Smith has now written to the chief executive of British Waterways demanding to know what measures he has taken to minimise the impact of the closure on businesses. And he wants answers over what could be done to mitigate problems in future.

He said: “In particular, there are concerns there has been a leak from the stretch of the canal which has been closed and that British Waterways has been aware of it but done nothing to mitigate it.”

He also wants to know how long the closure will last and whether the chief executive would be prepared to meet him and people affected to discuss the situation.

A British Waterways spokesman said: “Our chief executive, Robin Evans, has received a letter from Julian Smith. Following investigation into the questions raised, Robin will reply direct to the MP.”