FEARS have been raised that a commercial pheasant-rearing unit could cause a traffic hazard on a busy main road.

The Urra Estate has applied for retrospective planning permission to change the use of land at Whingroves Farm, Chop Gate, near Stokesley, for the development, and retain 19 pheasant-rearing sheds at the site.

Planners at the North York Moors National Park Authority have recommended that permission be granted, but two local residents and parish councillors have raised concerns about the birds causing a hazard on the B1257 Stokesley to Helmsley road.

One resident, who did not want to be named, said: "One time, I was driving on the road and there were 100 birds on the road.

"If a motorcyclist had been on the road, there could have been an accident as they all flew up.

"I don't think warning signs would solve the problem and the birds could hit a windscreen."

In its response to the national park authority, Bilsdale Midcable Parish Council said: "There has been a significant increase in the number of birds reared in this area, which is causing a traffic hazard."

But North Yorkshire County Council's highways section does not think this is grounds for refusal, and said it believes warning signs could be considered an option.

John Reeve, the owner of the Urra Estate, said: "You can't do a lot to prevent the birds from wandering around.

"We are no different from any other sporting estate and people have to realise it's a diversification to make the estate work."

Val Dilcock, chief planning officer for the national park authority, said: "There are a number of wild animal hazards in the park, including deer and sheep.

"However, it would be possible to improve the highway signage in this area if deemed necessary.

"This would provide drivers with prior warning of a particular potential road hazard in the area."

The parish council has also raised concerns over the visual impact of the scheme on the area.

But Mr Reeve said: "We have planted trees and intend to plant more to shield the huts, and we are painting them brown to blend in."