A proposal for a new trans-Pennine motorway linking up Lancashire and Yorkshire has been criticised as a “red herring” by politicians across the Pennines.
Lib Dem peer and Pendle representative Councillor Tony Greaves and County Councillor Azhar Ali were responding to a report in Saturday’s The Yorkshire Post in which Councillor Keith Wakefield, the former Leader of Leeds City Council and current Chairman of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s Transport Committee and Councillor Simon Cooke, Leader of the Conservative group on Bradford City Council, were arguing for transport improvements including a proposal to extend the M65 to connect Colne and Keighley.
Couns Wakefield and Cooke are increasingly concerned that the Northern Powerhouse is focusing on a small number of expensive projects, such as a rail and road tunnel through the Pennines between Manchester and Sheffield.
While Coun Greaves shares those concerns, he has dismissed the M65 extension.
Coun Greaves said: “People can say what they want. Lancashire County Council is the highways authority and Pendle Council is supporting its proposal for a bypass road connecting the M65 with the A56 around Foulridge. If that happens in the next 20 years I will be surprised but that is what people are pressing for. We also want to see railway from Colne reopened as an alternative transport route, a proper double track line from Rosegrove to Skipton which would then link right across the country.
“The Northern Powerhouse is just a slogan and one of its dafter schemes is putting a new tunnel to connect Manchester and Sheffield which would be the longest road tunnel in Europe.
“The car will have ceased to be a common mode of transport by the time that is completed.
“But an extension of the M65 is dead in the water and has been for 25 years. It’s not even worth discussing. There’s nowhere for it to go.”
County Coun Ali said more realistic infrastructure improvements need to be implemented to ensure Pendle is not left out on a limb and more people leave the area.
He said: “The Northern Powerhouse is quickly becoming the Northern Poorhouse.
“We have got HS1, HS2 and HS3 but George Osborne is just focusing on the big cities and not East Lancashire and outlying parts of West Yorkshire and North Yorkshire.
“I think had the M65 been built right through all those years ago then the economic fortunes of Pendle may be very different but we are where we are.
“George Osborne has just announced £300m just to look at creating a line between Manchester and Sheffield.
“Colne to Skipton would cost a fraction of that, and that would link Preston to Skipton and Liverpool through to Hull for freight which I think would be of greater benefit than years of arguing over a new line or extension of the M65 which is a red herring.
“We have a proposal for a bypass which is not even on the government’s radar.
“I think what we need is effective pressure on the Chancellor, which Lancashire County Council is doing, and from West Yorkshire and North Yorkshire to make sure the places like Pendle do not miss out.”