VILLAGERS and local councils have been putting their cases forward this week to keep alive hopes for bypasses around Gargrave, Hellifield and Long Preston.

A public inquiry, heard by inspector Dr Martyn Heyes, began on Tuesday following the Highways Agency's application to revoke the original orders for two bypasses totalling 11 kilometres.

The original order was made in 1993 by the Secretary of State, but was dropped in 1998 following a change in Government.

At the hearing held at Gargrave Primary School, Agency team leader and civil engineer John Hornigold said that because the Secretary of State now had no intention of constructing the bypasses as outlined in the Government White Paper "A New Deal for Trunk Roads in England" there was no reason to keep the order.

"The policy decision to withdraw the schemes in 1998 and the fact that the schemes have not been added to the Targeted Programme of Improvements (TPI) means that the Secretary of State has no intention to build the schemes," he told the inquiry.

In addition he said the existing A65 was not regarded as being strategically important and it was proposed it be classified as part of the non-core network to be de-trunked and passed over to North Yorkshire County Council.

He added that there was no legal necessity to have the bypass orders revoked prior to de-trunking.

However, Mr Hornigold was forced to admit that although there was no intention by the Government to build the bypasses in the foreseeable future, this did not mean that the situation could not change.

The Agency had made a number of compulsory purchases totalling more than £1.1 million and related to one property in Gargrave and six pieces of land around both schemes.

The Agency said the associated property and land should be sold as soon as possible to stop further unnecessary cost to the taxpayer through the maintenance of the land and property.

The Agency also stated that the estimated cost of the road schemes was around £100,000 million - more than double that estimated by the county council.

Mr Hornigold stated that while objectors were concerned about increased traffic and the effect this was having to residents' quality of life and safety, Agency findings were that traffic increase was only around 2.5 per cent west of Coniston Cold and 4.8 per cent north of Long Preston.

Other national routes in the country experienced increases of around 20 per cent.

"The increase of traffic is below the growth average for the country," he said.

Both Craven District Council and North Yorkshire County Council are objecting to the revocation of the orders.

Elwyn Williams, a civil engineer with the county council, said the Agency's decision to revoke the orders was "premature" and that the Government had put the schemes in the system in the first place because there were concerns for traffic relief, safety and environmental issues.

There were also substandard side roads, narrow footways and tortuous road alignments.

He said traffic increase figures were conflicting and its statistics showed an increase of seven per cent since 1993. The A65 also had a high accident rate.

Coun Helen Firth, representing Craven District Council, said that once the protected lines of the bypasses were lost it would be difficult to resurrect the scheme.

She also stated: "The current levels of traffic flow through the middle of the villages on the A65 are not compatible with an acceptable quality of life for those residents. The weight and length of some of today's vehicles were not envisaged when the villages were designed and built and that fact still holds good."

Ian Evans, a member of Long Preston Parish Council and Long Preston Residents' Association, said the Agency should note that lorries transporting nuclear waste were using the A65.

He said there had recently been a case when a vehicle passed along the route from Leeds to Sellafield leaking waste nuclear material.

Mr Hornigold said he was not aware of the incident.

The inquiry was due to close yesterday (Thursday) and the inspector will submit his findings to the Secretary of State. A decision could be made within eight weeks.