THE owners of a Yorkshire Dales holiday cottage have sent a bill to the local Tourist Information Office after a customer cancelled following a conversation with staff about the impact of foot-and-mouth disease.

Paul Wood and wife Pam, who live in Derbyshire, say they directed a concerned client to the Leyburn service for the latest details on the outbreak.

However, instead of reassurance, they claim someone in the office gave a gloomy story of life at a standstill in the Dales, pointing the customer towards the east coast instead.

The booking was subsequently cancelled, leaving the Woods out of pocket, confused over the position in the countryside and worried they may have to close their business within months if the situation doesn't improve.

"The worst thing is that no one is telling us anything. We have been sent a letter advising us we can apply for a rate rebate but that would not come until June and we may have to close before then," said Mr Wood.

A spokeswoman for the Richmondshire Tourism Office confirmed a letter was being drafted to Mr Wood, who had the department's sympathy.

She added: "We are promoting responsible tourism and trying to give a positive message about the position in the countryside. People can visit and we are encouraging them to use the towns, especially where town trials and special events have been arranged.

"We sympathise with businesses struggling during the crisis and we are trying to do all we can to minimise the problem.