LAWYERS acting for a local authority have been urged to honour a gentleman's agreement - or risk ruining the council's reputation.

Coverdale farmer, Clive Weatherall, thought he was making a public-spirited gesture when he allowed a dry-stone wall to be built on his land in the 1980s when North Yorkshire County Council improved the road between Horsehouse and Middleham.

He agreed to surrender some of his property to make way for wider verges - as long as the authority accepted it would be responsible for maintaining the new boundary.

But, when a 40-yard section collapsed recently, he was shocked to be told there was no written record of the deal - and he could be landed with a £1,000 bill for the repairs.

At a meeting on Monday, he told the authority's Richmondshire area committee he felt he had was being unfairly treated. He warned if there was no change of heart, he would consider reclaiming his land.

The council's lawyers pointed out backing down could set a precedent - but Mr Weatherall won an ally in ward councillor, Roger Harrison-Topham, who said reneging on the agreement would be putting the authority's name on the line.

"This is not a criminal case but an issue where the balance of probabilities matter and, on that basis, I think the council should stand up for what I believe are its responsibilities. The most important thing is that the council is seen to act rightly and justly," he said.

The committee voted to press the legal team to draw up an agreement which would confirm the authority's responsibility for repairs to the wall.