PLANS for a committee shake-up has sparked anger in the rural communities.

North Yorkshire County Council is proposing to change the geography and numbers of area committees.

Currently, there are seven committees based on the seven district and borough council areas, ranging in population from 52,000 to 157,000.

However it is now proposed they should be based on the six parliamentary constituencies, where the population will be similar, ranging from 96,000 to 108,000.

But John Blackie, the county councillor for the Upper Dales, said: “It is an utterly ludicrous idea, making no sense whatsoever, and I am vehemently against it.”

The Richmond parliamentary constituency is England’s longest constituency, measured east to west, at 70 miles.

The Upper Dales is England’s largest and most sparsely populated deeply rural county council division, at 325 square miles, and home to 5,500 residents.

Cllr Blackie said: “What has Arkengarthdale got in common with Great Ayton?

“How can the concerns about re-locating urgent healthcare services at the James Cook bridge the unbridgeable time it takes to reach the hospital – ten minutes from Great Ayton, and 90 minutes from Arkengarthdale.”

However, the county council document reads: “It is hoped that the advantage of the proposed new structure will be to encourage MPs to attend area committees so there can be the best democratic representation for their communities.

“It will provide a good vehicle for the MP and county councillors to hold each other to account and to facilitate dialogue about issues facing the locality.”

MPs will be invited to attend at least one area committee meeting a year.

However, Cllr Blackie fears it will have the opposite effect and people are less likely to attend the meeting.

He added: “How can a local member with a local issue that would have attracted a local public attendance list it on the agenda if the meeting is being held in location 45 miles away.”

Any agreed changes are hoped to be introduced after the May 2018 county council meeting.