Controversial plans to build a Millennium bridge over the River Aire at Gargrave have been met with fury from hundreds of residents.

And at a meeting of more than 300 villagers in the village hall last night, the parish council agreed to hold a referendum on the proposal.

The vast majority of those present were vehemently opposed to building a £60,000 to £90,000 bridge which would link Middle Green with Low Green. They claimed the council had not canvassed people's opinion properly.

Isobel Nicholson, of East Street, said: "The parish council should have consulted us before going ahead. They have to realise that times have changed - every organisation these days realises that discussions are important."

After a parish council survey two years ago showed some support for a bridge proposal, the council lodged an application with Craven District Council to build a 50 metre-long bridge; a car park for 12 cars; picnic area and the removal of existing stepping stones.

But residents said they had not realised the size of the planned bridge and they felt the car park and picnic area would attract too many visitors and would create litter and disturbance. They also wanted to keep the original stepping stones.

At last night's meeting parish council chairman Jack Maud agreed that the council had made mistakes and agreed to a referendum. He also admitted that the council had spent £900 on foundation investigation work.

Mr Maud said the referendum would include all five aspects of the project: the bridge; removal of the stepping stones; car park; fencing along Low Green and a farm lane and a permanent granite base for the village bonfire.

Voting forms will be delivered to everyone on Gargrave's electoral role in the near future.

Converted for the new archive on 30 June 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.