TOP Tory Lord Heseltine yesterday officially launched the £130 million pound Preston City Deal, raising hopes of a similar government investment for East Lancashire.

MPs Jack Straw and Gordon Birtwistle hailed the scheme as good news for the whole of the county and promised to lobby ministers for more cash for towns in the east of the county.

The deal aims to create more than 20,000 jobs and 17,000 new homes, growing the central Lancashire economy by £1billion and attracting double that in commercial investment. Former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine said at the official launch in Preston: “It's fantastic to see the rapid progress that has been made in over the last six months. The city deal has given the area the opportunity to unlock significant economic growth and pave the way for securing future growth."

The event marked the beginning of £430m of transport improvements including: l £12.4 million towards the £13.8million upgrade of the Clitheroe, Blackburn, Darwen to Manchester rail line increasing services from hourly to every 30 minutes; l £1.8 million for the £2million Haslingden Road corridor improvement in Blackburn; and l £2.8 million towards the £3.2 million maintenance project for Burnley’s Centenary Way viaduct.

Blackburn Labour MP Mr Straw said: “This is a welcome investment in Lancashire’s only city with spin-offs for the East of the county including the Clitheroe-Manchester rail link. I shall now lobby for a ‘city-style’ deal for East Lancashire.”

Burnley Liberal Democrat Mr Birtwistle said: “This is good news for the whole of the county, improving its key transport hub. I shall continue to press for a similar scale of investment for the towns of East Lancashire.”

Lancashire Enterprise Partnership chairman Edwin Booth said: “This is a very exciting time for the Lancashire economy as a whole.”