MORE than two-thirds of North Yorkshire residents back proposals to split the county down the middle for local government reorganisation, according to a new survey.

The study by Knaresborough-based researchers The Buzzz suggests the majority of residents are in favour of plans to create two new council areas, one in the east and one in the west.

It also suggests only 30 per cent of people back opposing plans for one so-called mega council to run the entire county.

The proposals are a part of a government request for North Yorkshire’s current council structure to be simplified and are linked to devolution.

North Yorkshire County Council is behind the plans to create one so-called mega council in a restructure which would see the City of York left intact.

Meanwhile, the county’s seven district council leaders are behind plans for the split down the middle which would see Harrogate, Hambleton, Craven and Richmondshire merge in the west, and Scarborough, Ryedale, Selby and York in the east.

Leader of Richmondshire Angie Dale speaking on behalf of the seven leaders said the study 'clearly shows' most people believe the east/west split is the best. She added: "We believe it is by far the best option, keeping services local and effective, giving people a strong voice and fair representation, while delivering necessary and realistic efficiencies.We know from speaking to residents, businesses and other organisations that people have huge misgivings about North Yorkshire County Council’s model."

Simplifying council structures is considered essential by the government ahead of any devolution deal similar to those agreed elsewhere in Yorkshire. Under the mega-council proposals, the single authority would serve a population of 618,000 with York 211,000 residents. However, the district councils’ plan says the creation of two similar sized authorities would offer greater efficiencies.

The Buzzz study surveyed 560 people and showed the pattern of preference for the east/west model was similar across the county. In Harrogate, 75 per cent of people said they preferred this model, while 78 per cent said the same in Scarborough.

Richmondshire received an overwhelming 92 per cent backing, while residents in York were split with 54 per cent preferring the North Yorkshire and York model.

However, councillor Carl Les, leader of North Yorkshire County Council - the authority behind plans for one single council - said the survey suffers from a “lack of information” and that the county council would soon be releasing its own research which demonstrates a “very strong level of support” for its plans.

He said: “It is impossible to comment with any detail on these figures, given the lack of information provided by the press release, including what questions those surveyed were actually asked and what information they were given to make a decision on.

“We do however find it very surprising that no one appears to have been undecided in this survey.

“Equally surprising is their claim that 92 per cent of the residents of Richmondshire would support North Yorkshire being broken in half. The survey therefore raises more questions than it answers.”