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FIRST AT LAST

Restoration of the world's first boat lift, which links two waterways in Cheshire, should finally start next autumn, after 16 years battling for funds. Heritage grants totalling 6.7M are now 'confidently expected' before Christmas and should see tenders to repair the 123 year old Anderton boat lift out by spring. The decaying twin trough lift connects the River Weaver with the Trent & Mersey Canal at Northwich. It consists of two structures - a 1875 hydraulically powered, ram operated lift overlain by a 1908 portal frame carrying electrically driven counterbalance weights. Grant applications to restore the younger structure were abandoned two years ago after a dispute between potential fund donors. Restoration of the counterweight mechanism, which qualifies for Heritage lottery funds, demanded a back up braking system, but English Heritage objected to the additional external steelwork needed. British Waterways has now opted to restore the original 1875 lift fully, and repair the surrounding frame as a non-working structure. Visitor facilities will be built to allow tourists to ride on the working lift once complete in 2001.

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