A bridge partially washed away by freak floods more than two years ago is at the centre of a new storm of protest.

Eight months after a Government department stepped in to decide whether the bridge at Kirkby Malzeard, near Ripon, North Yorkshire, could be widened by 6ft or rebuilt to its original narrow width no decision about its future has been made.

Residents are furious about the delays and have protested to North Yorkshire County Council.

The damaged bridge, which dates from the 18th Century and is a Grade II-listed structure, was shut down after the flash floods and a temporary bypass bridge is still in place.

Last summer, North Yorkshire County Council planners decided, against officer's advice, to approve widening the bridge across Kex Beck by about 6ft.

Ripon and Skipton MP David Curry said because English Heritage was making a very hostile objection to widening, he believed the issue will now be referred to Planning Minister Mr Tony McNulty.

If this happens the minister will have to decide whether he will call a public inquiry or support North Yorkshire's position on widening the bridge.

A public inquiry would add time to the decision-making process and run up a large bill. Supporters of widening the bridge say that it must meet modern traffic needs.

Opponents say widening would detract from the character and appearance of the area, increase traffic speeds, and reduce road safety.