VILLAGERS in North Yorkshire were this week in uproar over plans to close a dangerous gap on a major trunk road.

Officials from the Highways Agency got a rough ride at a packed meeting in Appleton Wiske on Monday night which spotlighted a scheme to block off a central reservation on the A19.

A special slot was worked into a parish council session so that people from neighbouring villages could have their say.

The agency is to close the infamous Black Swan crossing for a trial 18-month period from March.

County councillors are calling for a bridge instead.

Local representatives Caroline Seymour, John Fletcher and John Dennis were unanimous on this when they discussed the issue with county highways officers, and this is the position the council will adopt.

The county's area traffic manager, Eddy Hayward, told the D&S: "We will be writing to the Highways Agency to make them aware of the decision. It is important to go forward with the councillors' views and not just those of the officers."

Highways Agency representative Jon Cole told the meeting there was no finance for a bridge.

The agency says it has to take action after a string of accidents at the crossing. There have been four fatalities since 2001.

Angry residents say there has not been enough consultation and claim the move will only shift the problem to other junctions on the A19.

East Rounton parish council chairman, Derek Lawton, said hundreds of people from surrounding villages used the crossing. "The HA says it is a blackspot, yet they always go for the cheapest option," he said.

"We want to see a bridge over the road or an underpass.

"They can't just implement this closure. Parishes have not had enough notice. We are very concerned, especially for older people. Farmers, too, are upset.

"People will have to use single track roads with the risk of meeting farm vehicles. It is going to be impossible. They have not thought this through. We must see if there is a way round it."

In last week's D&S, Hutton Rudby resident, Judith Hauserman, made an appeal for information from people interested in making the crossing safer. She lost a close relative and a family friend in a fatal crash at the crossing last August.

"This move makes my appeal all the more pertinent," she said.

"Something has to be done, but if they are going ahead with this, attention will have to be paid to the A172 and other roads to make them safer. Problems often seem to involve people crossing from Hutton Rudby and there is a lot of feeling on the issue.

"Last year made it two deaths too many."

* Where will the vehicles go? page 5.