CRUMBLING historic buildings throughout North Yorkshire have been given £2.2m in grants towards their restoration, but more needs to be done, say experts.

"The problem is not always obvious unless you are looking for it," says Douglas Campbell, of the county council's building conservation department, which organises grant aid.

Each year, up to 200 buildings are awarded cash help of between 25 per cent and 50 per cent towards their restoration in schemes run by the county and district councils.

"Behind the idyllic, chocolate box image of North Yorkshire's many towns and village tourist haunts, are vacant areas which reveal disrepair, inappropriate alterations, dereliction and neglect, symptomatic of underlying economic pressures," said Mr Campbell.

"These problems threaten the character of our rich architectural heritage."

Extensive work is being carried out in many towns and villages, including Pickering, where the authorities are concentrating on stone and traditional joinery repairs.

Mr Campbell said: "Relatively modest building repair grants can provide the impetus necessary to spark historic areas back into life.

"We have found that as the level of building repair and reuse grows in an area, and derelict, once-neglected buildings are restored, the owners of neighbouring buildings are encouraged to carry out improvements themselves."

In Knaresborough recently, several shops which have been vacant for some time have been refurbished and returned to commercial use.

At Kirkbymoorside, grants have aided repairs and the reoccupation of a building which had been a house listed as a building at risk, and which had been crumbling for years.

Restoration work is also helping to attract new jobs and businesses, claimed Mr Campbell.

"Carrying out building repairs also helps to safeguard jobs, especially those of traditional local craftsmen who have indispensable knowledge and skills.