THE future of Yorkshire's rural areas still has opportunities ahead, despite the plight being suffered by communities through foot-and-mouth disease, says Ian Strong, director of York's Yorkshire Rural Community Council (YRCC).

"The work of the YRCC has never been more vital than it is today with the many issues and problems facing rural areas," he said.

The YRCC which was started in 1934, covers an area of about 600 town and parish councils, and it is involved in working to bring schemes, which it has helped to promote to the European Union and the British Government, to reality.

Its membership includes businesses, local authorities, county-wide organisations and individuals.

Mr Strong said: "We are a strong, lobbying voice for rural Yorkshire, and the YRCC is going to be even more important in the future".

"The demands on our resources are increasing constantly, because of the amount of help which is now needed in the rural areas," he said.

It has launched a membership drive from its base at William House, Shipton Road, Skelton, York.