THE North York moors centre at Danby was this week accused of being the main cuplrit in the possible spread of foot-and-mouth.

A parish councillor launched a stinging attack on the national park authority for not putting down disinfectant mats around Danby Lodge.

"The park is supposed to be the authority in charge here," Coun David Hodgson told Wednesday's meeting of Danby Parish Council. "It's a bloody disgrace."

But a national park spokesman hit back by saying the authority had done all it could to protect the area from the disease. He revealed that new measures were being implemented in the run-up to Easter.

Coun Hodgson said: "We are getting complacent and taking it for granted that we are free of foot-and-mouth.

But Easter was coming and there would be more people around at Danby Lodge."

Failure to disinfect footwear and not reducing contact with livestock were the risk areas, he said.

"We are five weeks into this outbreak so why is the national park's centre at Danby still not putting down disinfecting mats," said Coun Hodgson. "People are walking across the road from the car park into the centre and the roads are open to sheep. It is scandalous.

"Danby Lodge should make sure people road have their footwear disinfected."

He pointed out that foot-and-mouth was only 30 miles away from the park area.

He wanted to see lists pinned up telling people how long the virus could survive in various media - for example 14 days in dry excrement and 11 weeks in leather boots.

"Don't think foot-and-mouth has gone away," he said. "We are lucky to be free of it and should be doing things to stay free. The centre is the biggest risk at this time."

The council agreed to urge the national park authority to tighten up precautions at the Danby centre.

National park information officer Mr Mike Pratt agreed this was not the time for complacency. In the lead-up to Easter, when more visitors were expected, extra measures were being taken, including putting mats down at the centres at Danby and Sutton Bank.

"We did not do this before because we were not promoting the centres as being open," he said.

"But we had staff in the car parks telling people about the restrictions.

"It is only now we have said the centres are open because we want to bring business back.

"We have had a change of policy. We anticipate a lot more use over Easter and we are responding to the fact that the disease is on the doorstep.

"It is unfair to accuse us of complacency. We acted very quickly in the beginning."

Mr Pratt said the park had only opened up areas where staff had done risk assessments.

"The message is that access is restricted but businesses are open," he said.

He said various measures had been taken at Danby. These included cancelling meetings to have been held there; disinfecting staff vehicles; not promoting the centres until last weekend and cancelling all school visits.

"We have done more than enough up to now," he said. "But with more visitors due it is not just about putting mats down, it is getting the message across that the countryside is still largely closed."