At May’s local elections to Futures Park and county hall, the state of the Valley’s roads were - as always - a key issue on the doorsteps.

Although the Conservatives maintained county council control, a leadership reshuffle saw a new cabinet member for roads and transport appointed, in place of Coun Keith Iddon. LancsLive caught up with County Coun Charlie Edwards after recent visits to two Valley divisions.

County Coun Edwards. said: “I’ve come in with a new attitude and approach to highways. My ambition is to make sure that no part of the county gets left behind.”

In his five months in post, Coun Edwards says he has toured the length and breadth of the county, trying to find out more about each area’s roads network.

A Morecambe South councillor, he acknowledges the familiar accusations levelled in boroughs like Rossendale about [especially] rural areas further from Preston treated as an ‘afterthought’ by county hall, but insists the figures challenge those claims.

“The county council has invested £5.5m in Rossendale’s roads in the last four years,” he said.

“We have significant projects on the horizon to improve bus and train connectivity into Manchester, and just this week we are working on resurfacing Brenbar Crescent in Whitworth, Bury Road in Rawtenstall and fixing the footpaths on Helmshore Road.

“The only areas which have received more for capital spend [over the last four years] are West Lancashire, Wyre and Ribble Valley. The way we allocate the money is not done on a geographical basis; it’s done on a scientific basis. The narrative that it’s underfunded – I do challenge that.”

Rossendale West county councillor Samara Barnes welcomed Coun Charlie Edwards, Cabinet Member for Highways, to the area
Rossendale West county councillor Samara Barnes welcomed Coun Charlie Edwards, Cabinet Member for Highways, to the area

Coun Edwards was speaking on the day of a visit to Bacup and Whitworth hosted by County Coun Scott Smith, which followed a recent tour of Haslingden and Helmshore at the invitation of Rossendale West’s Samara Barnes.

During their tour of Coun Barnes’ division, concerns raised included speeding in Rising Bridge and Acre, patched roads and pavements and lack of visible road markings in Haslingden, parking issues and speeding in Helmshore, as well as potholes on the village’s residential streets - including Daffodil Close and adjoining Bluebell Avenue.

Coun Edwards said: “One of the [major] issues was probably parking in Helmshore. These old villages have outgrown themselves and the infrastructure has not grown with it. The solution is to make sure we can keep problem parking to a minimum through a measure of enforcement, but also making sure you have better road layouts.”

After a preparatory consultation to canvass community priorities, Coun Barnes said she received more than 100 messages.

“These ranged from long-standing disputes regarding the adoption of certain roads, poor quality pavements, potholes, speeding and parking concerns,” she said.

“It was plain to see that residents of Haslingden and outlying villages felt they had been neglected by those at County Hall for a long time. Whilst I was delighted to secure the visit with Coun Edwards, he wouldn’t commit to any significant work in the area.”

County Coun Smith said the roads chief had listened “to the good and the bad” following a “great” visit to his division.

Four problem areas highlighted were taxis parking on Irwell Terrace, Bacup; use of Masseycroft in Whitworth as “a race track”, lack of access roads to Wallbank and Hallfold, Whitworth; and Market Street/Rochdale Road.

Posting on his Facebook page, Coun Smith said: “CC Edwards’ approach is the approach we need from cabinet members – keen to listen to residents’ concerns, open to suggestions but realistic about what can be achieved, given limited resources.”

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