Security fencing will be erected around a stretch of the Trent and Mersey Canal to protect its swans, but only if the council will underwrite the cost of its maintenance.

British Waterways will give a £2,500 grant to the Swan Support Group to put up the fencing, if Middlewich Town Council agrees to pay for the upkeep of a fence and clean up any vandalism if the support group folds, the Middlewich Guardian reports.

The fencing is needed to stop swans entering Booth Lane in the town and putting motorists' lives at risk.

"I think British Waterways is being responsible by making sure there is a body to maintain this fence," the newspaper quoted councillor Peter Hirst as saying at a council meeting in December.

However, councillor Chalky White expressed concerns that it was like writing "a blank cheque".

"I'm not saying we should step back completely but British Waterways has significantly more funds than us," he added.

For the time being, unsightly orange temporary fencing will remain in place until the situation is resolved.

Between November 2008 and February 2009, five swans were killed on Booth Lane, the newspaper said.