A FOOT-and-mouth help centre has been set up in Wensleydale.

A small band of leading local figures have formed Rejuvenate, a self-help group and helpline, to provide speedy and accurate information for local farmers and businesses.

It is in direct response to the often confused, conflicting - and even missing - official advice.

"Rejuvenate" has drawn on the experiences of farmers in the foot and mouth hotspots of Hawes, Burtersett and Bellerby.

A group statement said it was obvious many issues had not been satisfactorily addressed.

"Many more problems will arise as outbreaks increase and as the farming year moves into silage, hay and shearing," it said.

"In Cumbria, Durham and now increasingly in the Yorkshire Dales chaos reigns."

The group has set up a liaison office in Hawes - funded by North Yorkshire County Council - complete with telephone, fax, e-mail and website connections.

The intention is to provide one central point for farmers and businesses to contact about any FMD related issues - whether it is advice concerning livestock through to benefits and financial help available.

The group was the idea of Mr Jim McRobert, general manager of WF Banks of Askrigg, who had been distressed by the impact FMD was having on customers and friends.

"I phoned around a few people on Friday when things were getting bad, we met Friday night and by Monday we had funding from North Yorkshire County Council to set up the telephone helpline," said Mr McRobert.

Even when FMD is under control there will be questions of re-stocking and other issues to consider. "I believe it will have an effect on every business in the area which will probably last two years," he said.

Coun John Blackie and Coun Yvonne Peacock helped set up the facilities.

Other members include Mr Mike Keeble, farmer and agricultural commentator; Mr Philip Holden and Mr Adam Holden; Mr Barry Whitfield of Barclays Bank; Mr Stephen Walker and Mr Maurice Hall of Leyburn and Hawes marts respectively; Mr Ken Buck of the NFU and Mr Ryan Whyte also of WF Banks.

The group would be pleased to hear from anyone else who can help. The helpline number at the co-ordinating office is 01969 667703.