FURTHER investigations are needed before any decision can be taken on whether York Mystery Plays can return to the Museum Gardens - and when.

Members of the York Mystery Plays Association met this week, following the publication of a feasibility study by expert Ben Pugh.

He concluded that another production of the plays in their historic home, where they were last staged in 1988, was feasible, but warned it would be a long and complicated process as they would have to be organized from scratch.

He said it was not realistic to consider staging them until at least 2006.

The association was set up last year after the Evening Press had launched a campaign to keep the plays alive in 2005.

The campaign followed news that they would not be staged this year - as should have happened under the traditional four-year cycle.

The breaking of a tradition going back more than half-a-century had been greeted with dismay by residents, amateur actors and also tourism bosses, concerned about the impact on the number of visitors coming to the city.

The association heard this week that the city guilds already had plans in place to perform the Mystery Plays on the backs of pageant wagons in the summer of 2006.

A guild representative warned that it would be difficult to stage both a wagon production and a large static production in the same year, because of the excessive demands it would place on many people who would normally be involved in both events.

Another complication was that the Mystery Plays could still be staged again in York Minster in 2010, along the lines of the successful Millennium production.

Representatives of City of York Council said the Minster Mystery Plays board would be holding its annual general meeting on Saturday, after which the cathedral's plans might become a little clearer.

The council agreed to host a meeting involving representatives of the Minster, guilds and association to see if agreement could be reached on who should stage the plays, and when.

"The association is determined to re-start the Mystery Plays in their traditional setting in the Museum Gardens," said Keith Wood, chairman of a working group set up by the association to investigate how the plays could be staged again.

"The question we have to answer is: which is the right year to start."