A CASH boost of £654,000 is set to create jobs and regenerate economic growth on the historic Sankey Canal between Widnes and Warrington.

It will finance a new, permanent Marsh House bridge for the Riverside Trading Estate, create apprenticeships and training opportunities and improve marketing, signage and branding in order to protect and grow existing businesses and help create new ones.

Some 12 apprenticeships will be created with two direct jobs and a further 23 indirect jobs.

Originally opened in 1757, the Sankey Canal was the first ever canal in England.

The successful partnership funding bid was made to the Coastal Communities Fund by Halton and Warrington councils and the Sankey Canal Restoration Society (SCARS).

Halton Cllr Ron Hignett, board member for the physical environment, said: "‘This is excellent news and a prime example of partnership working between two local authorities and a community lead organisation. This will bring important regeneration to Halton.”

The new Marsh House Bridge will be a lift bridge which can be opened for water traffic as and when the aspiration to clean and open up the canal to the west of the bridge is realised.

Funding will enable significant marketing activity to commence in order to promote business growth in the area and enhance the leisure offer.

Halton’s SCARS representative Clr Keith Morley, said: "We are all looking forward to the new opportunities this will bring and hope that this is the first of many improvements we will see along the Sankey Canal.”

The canal connected St Helens to the River Mersey and was built to supply coal to the growing chemical industries of Liverpool. Trade along the canal fuelled the growth of St Helens, Earlestown, and Widnes, all of which had been were small villages prior..

The canal also provided the first rail to ship freight facility in the world.