A GROUP of moorland villages is battling to keep a project officer who has helped them produce ideas to improve their quality of life.

Margaret Farey has worked with residents of 16 remote communities in the North Yorkshire Moors National Park, including Gillamoor, Fadmoor, Bransdale, Hutton-le-Hole, Rosedale, Farndale and Cropton.

She has helped them produce parish plans, which are used to improve services, the environment, transport and community life.

Farmer's wife Mrs Farey has encouraged villagers to work together.

Hawson Simpson, chairman of the grants committee for the area and of the parish meeting at Gillamoor and Fadmoor, said: "She has done a wonderful job. All the villages are desperate to keep Margaret because she has opened new doors of opportunity for our communities."

The financial crisis has resulted from the end of the Government's Single Regeneration Budget scheme and the shortage of money needed to match funding from the European Union.

The North York Moors National Park Authority and Ryedale District Council have each contributed to the scheme, which costs £17,000 a year to run.

Ian Strong, chief executive of the Yorkshire Rural Community Council (YRCC), said: "This has been a real success story. The expertise we have been able to provide through Margaret and the YRCC has given these communities capacity to work together to produce an action programme and parish plan.

"It is very disappointing that we find ourselves in a situation where we are having great difficulty finding the funds to enable the project to continue beyond next March when it is only half-way through its five years.

"We never expected the funding to continue for ever but without it for the full five years the projects in the villages are in danger of losing their impetus, which will be a tough blow for those communities."