COUNCIL chiefs and community leaders today vowed not to let the election of Pendle's first British National Party councillor damage race relations.

Following Brian Parker's election win, those behind the drive to unite Pendle's communities moved to allay fears the far-right party would create racial tension.

Today the party said it would represent the interests of the people who voted for it.

Philip Mousdale, the authority's executive director for community engagement, said Coun Parker would have to abide by the council's rules otherwise face being booted off the council.

He said: "Pendle Council takes its responsibilities under the Race Relations Act very seriously, working to promote good relations between people of different communities and to break down barriers.

"All newly elected councillors have to undertake to abide by the Code of Conduct.

"This includes a duty to promote equality by not discriminating unlawfully against anyone and to treat everyone with respect."

Coun Parker was elected as member for Marsden Ward ousting Labour's Dorothy Ormrod from office by 80 votes.

His win was greeted with a mixture of cheers and jeers.

As the leaders of the main political parties expressed concern that the BNP had finally gained a footing in Pendle after two previous unsuccessful attempts, Coun Parker refused to talk to reporters.

The Reverend Sally Thomas, of the United Reformed Church, Brunswick Street, Nelson, and a key member of Building Bridges, an organisation set up improve race relations, said the church had played a key part in leafleting residents in wards including Clover Hill, Marsden and Craven.

She added: "The church has made great efforts to stop the BNP being elected.

"This will not affect the good work we have done to improve race relations.

"If anything it will make us stronger."

Dave Jones, spokesman for the BNP said: "We have a councillor because the people of his ward wanted him.

"We will represent the interests of the people who voted for us.

"By saying this they are insulting the views of people who voted for the BNP."