MORE footpaths are to reopen in the Yorkshire Dales as foot-and-mouth disease loosens its grip on the region.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has given consent to farmers to reopen their land if they have completed secondary cleansing routines.

As a result, footpaths and bridleways in Wensleydale and Bishopdale will be open in time for the Christmas break - except those which pass through farmyards or past farm buildings.

The programme of reopening rights of way will continue in the south of the national park, including around Skipton, Settle and Grassington.

Head of park management for the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, Jon Avison, said: "The announcement will give the public even greater access to the footpaths and bridleways of the National Park this Christmas - leaving only a limited number of routes closed.

"This is good news at the end of a long and hard year and almost draws a line under the terrible events of the last ten months.

"Come the New Year, we are hoping to open the last closed routes across the south of the National Park, yet we will only do this when we receive notification from DEFRA that it is safe to do so."

Read more about foot-and-mouth here.

Updated : 14:35, 20/12/01