COUNTY council chiefs have pledged to fight for the future of the market towns of North Yorkshire.

They have given their backing to moves to set up an Action for Market Towns network to support and promote their regeneration.

The move came at a meeting of the county's Market Towns Forum, at Masham, which attracted more than 80 representatives.

County council leader John Weighell said: "Market towns have changed dramatically over the past 50 years.

"Each one was self-sufficient and self-reliant, bustling with shops and businesses serving the local community.

"Nowadays, jobs are anything but local and commuting is the name of the game."

The county's director of business and community services, Gordon Gresty, said the development of the forum had a crucial role in providing a common voice for the towns.

He said: "It will spearhead the development of partnerships at a local level, bringing in common views, concerns and ideas."