A SEARCH and rescue team, which is already under financial pressure, has launched a fundraising drive to buy a new vehicle.

Donations to Teesdale and Weardale Search and Rescue Team, with takings from collections boxes, dropped to £5,270 in the last financial year.

But running costs remained the same at £8,790, leaving a shortfall of more than £3,000.

Spokesman Steve Owers said that last year's foot-and-mouth outbreak was a major factor because it reduced the number of visitors to the countryside and led to the cancellation of a number of fundraising events.

He said: "We're trying to find ways to help ourselves, for example we've got a sponsored bike ride happening fairly soon, but £3,000 is quite a big shortfall to make up when you've only got a small budget.

"But the big thing we need to do now is to replace our Land Rover in the near future, because it's just about on its last legs.

"We have a big enough problem getting enough money for running costs, let alone a larger amount of money to buy a new vehicle."

Team members are all volunteers, receive no payment for their services and usually meet travel and personal equipment costs from their own pockets. Any money raised is for running and replacement costs.

Despite the funding reduction, the workload has remained the same and the team has been involved in a number of high-profile operations in recent weeks.

A massive operation for 71-year-old hiker Patrick Newall ended when he was found in bed and breakfast accomodation in Middleton-in-Teesdale, unaware at the extent of the search.

A search for a man who went missing in the Kelloe area turned into a non-stop 23-hour operation and a search for a walker in the Pennine Way ended in tragedy when his body was found just west of Cow Green reservoir.

Mr Owers said that more than half of all searches are carried out in urban areas for missing people, rather than in the fells or countryside.

To help with fundraising, call the team on (01833) 630999.