VISITOR numbers at Thirsk's flagship tourist attraction, the World of James Herriot, are down - but plans are afoot to remedy the situation.

The centre suffered during the foot-and-mouth crisis, and tourism was also hit by the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, but bookings are now starting to pick up.

During a discussion on the draft budget at Hambleton Council cabinet, Coun Susan Latter remarked on the drop and urged that opening hours be looked at 'very swiftly'.

The chairman Coun June Imeson said the situation was already being investigated. Although visitor numbers were down, the number of items sold at the centre was up.

"I do not feel that all is lost," she said. "We have a new manager there with lots of good ideas and we should watch this space."

Coun Latter asked for urgent action, but members agreed to leave the matter until the leisure team reported back.

A council spokesman said the centre already opened between 11am and 4pm, seven days a week and closed only on Christmas Day.

Five hundred visitors to Thirsk had been asked if the centre was the reason for their visit; 46 per cent had said it was.

"The Yorkshire Tourist Board has reported a drop in visitor figures for all attractions since foot-and-mouth and the terrorist attack, so we are not alone," said the spokesman.

David Shields, tourism officer said: "We have a great deal of positive things going on to attract people back. We are working in partnership with other visitor attractions in other towns to organise combined visits and already have £20,000 worth of group bookings for next year.

"New manager Sue Dalton has lots of good ideas. She is keen to work with local business and tradespeople and extend the school visits.

"We see the centre as a catalyst for Thirsk, not just a visitor centre standing on its own."