MORE than 50 cast iron grates have disappeared from quiet back streets in East Lancashire in just over a week.

Highway chiefs fear a pedestrian or cyclists may be seriously hurt as a result of the missing grids, reported in six towns or villages.

Trials are now taking place for plastic grates, in Oswaldwistle, amid suspicions that their cast iron predecessors are being weighed in for scrap.

Stolen grates are usually replaced by ductile alternatives, which have a far lower iron content so are not as appealing to thieves.

But when the old cast iron grates disappear, engineers must install new frames for the replacements, which can include having to remodel drain openings with concrete.

One of the first hit areas is Clitheroe, with Highfield Road, Chatburn Avenue, Back Talbot Close, Shays Drive, Whitewell Drive, Riverside, Back Bolland Prospect and Hereford Drive all hit.

County Cllr Keith Iddon, cabinet member for highways and transport, said: "Our main concern is the danger that a pedestrian or cyclist could severely injure themselves due to a missing grate.

"We've received almost 50 reports over the last week or so about missing grates, and our concern is there may be more which have been stolen which people have not yet noticed, or not reported.

"Some of them were in back streets where people might not often go very often, and we're concerned that someone might not see that the grate is missing until it's too late.

"There's also the cost to Lancashire tax payers of replacing these drain grates. It's particularly frustrating as their scrap value is likely to be negligible compared with the cost to the county council of buying and fitting replacements."