THE row surrounding the hanging of washing in the back streets of Skipton may be taking a step nearer resolution.

Pegging washing out in the back streets has been a tradition in the town for decades, but this practice was thrown into doubt after a dispute broke out between residents in Thornton Street in the summer.

Now North Yorkshire County Council has been drawn into the argument.

County council spokesman Tony Webster confirmed the authority was taking legal advice as the law regarding the matter was "unclear".

When the county council was first contacted, its maintenance manager David Bowe sent a letter to 100 people in certain streets of the Broughton Road area.

He told them: "The back street in question is a public highway maintained at public expense by North Yorkshire County Council as the highway authority."

He added that residents had a legal right to pass along the back street, but it was an offence to place a rope across a highway.

However, following the intervention of local county councillor Mike Doyle, a further letter was sent out by the director of environmental services, Mike Moore.

It stated that the county council was seeking further legal advice before any further action was taken.

Coun Doyle told the Herald: "I suspect that a legal judgement will be necessary to clear matters up and neither county nor police have any intention of initiating proceedings.

"This is a matter for the local community and the majority view is quite clear."

He added: "The legal situation is complex and washing hanging has been carried out since the houses were built. From my point of view washing hanging in a back alley makes it safer for children to play."

The matter was first raised by resident David Painter, who was fed up of not being able to get his car to the back of his house because of washing lines. He contacted the police, councillors, his MP and a solicitor , but was annoyed that no action was taken.

He said at the time: "Having lived in this area of Skipton for 16 years I feel I'm qualified to complain about residents causing an 'obstruction to the highway'."

Mr Painter claimed the situation had threatened to get out of hand when he was met with verbal abuse from the "housewife Mafia" after he confronted them about the situation.