A FORMER Mayor of Burnley who led the campaign to bring back the direct rail line from the town to Manchester has died.

Oldham-born businessman David Heginbotham passed away in his sleep at his Cliviger home on Sunday aged 81.

Political colleagues and opponents have paid tribute to a 'colourful' and 'quirky' character.

Mr Heginbotham was Conservative councillor for Cliviger with Worsthorne 1991 to 1998 and 2002 to 2018 and Mayor of Burnley in 2011-2012.

The former leader of the borough council Conservative group was the driving force behind the long campaign to reopen the Todmorden Curve.

Mr Heginbotham was one of the first passengers to use the direct link to Manchester from Burnley when it reopened after an £8.8million reinstatement of the line which was closed in 1972 following Dr Beeching’s railway reforms in 1965.

Cliviger with Worsthorne's Cllr Cosima Towneley said: "He was a very dear man.

"He was very quirky and a great character, full of bonhomie.

"David was deeply embedded in his community and not afraid of a challenge.

"He took on the apparently hopeless case of reinstating the Todmorden Curve essentially single-handed.

"I am so glad it was reinstated before he left the council."

Her ward colleague Ivor Emo said: "David was a wonderful chap and very involved in the community.

"He was very hard working, very generous and very active in the local church."

Burnley Council leader Cllr Mark Townsend said: "David was always a pleasure to spend time with.

"We obviously had our political differences as he fought hard for the residents he represented but it was always friendly and respectful.

"He will be missed and local politics will be less colourful without him around."

Former council leader Charlie Briggs from the Burnley and Padiham Independent Party said: "I always felt that David was a good man. I had some special times with him."

Current Conservative group leader Cllr Alan Hosker said: "This is a sad time. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.

"The Conservative Party in Burnley has lost a strong campaigner."

The Rev Chris Casey, vicar of the Church of St John the Divine in Cliviger said: "David was a regular member of the congregation and a man of active faith.

"He was an important member of the church community and worked very hard, really stepping up when the parish was without a vicar for several years. He was a man who put his hand to the plough."

Mr Heginbotham leaves two sons, Weston and Adrian.

A minute’s silence will be observed at the forthcoming Burnley Full Council meeting on February 24.