A BYPASS for Earby should be Lancashire County Council's top priority, say the town's parish councillors.

Their comments will now be passed on to the county authority as part of a fresh consultation on traffic issues.

Planning is starting now for the county's 2006 to 2011 Local Transport Plan (LTP) - a five-year blueprint setting out the top priorities for major transport schemes.

Three big projects are in the running to get top priority, one of which is a long-awaited bypass of villages along the A56, including Earby, Kelbrook, Sough and Foulridge.

The other schemes vying for priority are a bypass for Ormskirk and completion and improvement of a bypass in Penwortham, near Preston.

In March a fresh consultation was launched to assess the strength of feeling surrounding each scheme.

If there is overwhelming support for a particular one, it will strengthen its chances of getting top priority in the new LTP.

When Earby Parish Council held its annual parish assembly, members heard from an Earby resident who urged them to take advantage of the consultation and push for a bypass.

Coun Tim Haigh said he thought the parish council had a duty to do just that, adding that it had a standing resolution in favour of a bypass.

Coun Jack Cross added that if that resolution was reiterated at the parish assembly - a full public meeting - then it would carry more weight with the county council.

"I propose that this parish meeting writes to Lancashire County Council in support of a bypass for the villages along the A56 from Colne to Thornton-in-Craven," said Coun Cross.

Fellow members backed him, with only one choosing to abstain.

The closing date for the consultation has now passed and the results of it are due to be reported to a county council overview and scrutiny committee on Wednesday May 28.

Meanwhile, MP Gordon Prentice has renewed his call for the dismantled Colne to Skipton railway line - closed in the 1970s - to be reopened.

It followed an earlier call by Burnley MP Peter Pike for a new westward extension of the M65 motorway by a series of bypasses of communities along the A56, including those in West Craven.

The motorway links with the M6 at Preston, but at its western end runs out in Colne.

Responding to the Burnley MP, Mr Prentice asked why it appeared eccentric to call for the reopening of a railway, but it was alright to call for a new road?

The Pendle MP told Transport Minister David Jamieson that the Countryside Agency had come down in favour of reopening the Colne to Skipton line within five to 10 years and that access to the Yorkshire Dales would be improved immeasurably for thousands of people in Lancashire without a car.

Mr Prentice also told the Commons he wanted to see the Skipton to Grassington line fully reopened to passenger trains.

It currently runs to the Tilcon quarry about three miles from Grassington and is used only by freight trains carrying aggregates.

The Transport Minister told the MP that neither of the two lines was on the list of candidates for possible reopening drawn up by the Strategic Rail Authority.

He said local authorities and others would have to make the case for reinstatement.

Speaking after the Commons exchange, Mr Prentice said: "There are no insuperable engineering problems to prevent the reopening of the railway. Although it is not my preference, if we are to have a road then the railway should run alongside."