A CAR number plate issued to a police force 120 years ago and retained ever since has raised almost £200,000 at auction - which will be spent on modern-day road safety.

The “AJ1” plate was the first to be registered in North Yorkshire - then known as the North Riding of Yorkshire - in 1903.

It was first used on a car driven by the North Yorkshire Police chief constable Major Sir Robert Lister Bower and it has stayed with the force ever since.

However, as it is no longer in use the cash-strapped constabulary has sold it off and has raised £190,000 at auction.

The money will be split between improving the force’s memorial garden and to fund the ‘AJ1 Project’ to inject cash into road safety projects in the region.

North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Julia Mulligan and current Chief Constable Lina Winward agreed to sell the plate commercially to raise the cash.

Ms Mulligan said: “When deciding to sell the AJ1 registration, we agreed it was important to invest the sale money in making communities safer and feeling safer, and that is what this AJ1 Project Fund aims to do.

“It will provide a focus on improving road safety for those who use our roads and those who live alongside them and allow communities – those who are best placed to know what changes are needed – to bid for the money needed to make the improvements happen.

“I would encourage parish councils and other groups to consider what would make a difference to residents and road users where they live and make an application to this fund.”

Projects will focus on road safety for children cyclists, motorcyclists and older road users.

Parish councils and other community groups can also apply for one-off grants of up to £20,000.

Bids which include matched funding from other sources will be eligible to receive an additional 10 per cent on top of the amount requested.

Jon Foster, chairman of the 95 Alive road safety partnership in the county, said: “I’m delighted that this money has been made available to fund road safety projects throughout the county.

“If you are a group with ideas for a project that could improve road safety please put an application in.”