MOTORISTS in North Yorkshire are facing a massive detour next month when an old wooden toll bridge is closed for 14 weeks.

People wanting to cross Aldwark Bridge, north-west of York, will have to take a 21-mile detour to get to the other side of the river.

The trustees of the privately-owned bridge have applied to North Yorkshire County Council for a road closure order so renovation work can be carried out.

This will entail the wooden deck over which vehicles travel and some of the main supporting members being replaced.

The bridge will be closed from September 11 to December 16.

It is used particularly by civilian workers going to and from RAF Linton-on-Ouse and by children in surrounding villages travelling to school at Great Ouseburn.

The detour for people wanting to cross the bridge would be 21 miles and would involve driving to Aldwark or Great Ouseburn through Boroughbridge, Helperby and Flawith.

The only other option would involve an even bigger detour by travelling into York to cross the River Ouse at Clifton Bridge.

A spokesman for North Yorkshire County Council's highway department confirmed that the advised diversion for vehicles would be via Boroughbridge.

He added that the bridge was also being closed for safety reasons to pedestrians during the 14-week period, but said that construction workers would be willing to escort people over the bridge if urgently needed.

Currently charges for the toll bridge are 15p for cars, 30p for cars with trailers or caravans, minibuses and lighter goods vehicles, while drivers of heavier goods vehicles weighing more than 3.5 tonnes pay 80p.

Four years ago tolls on the bridge went up sharply after trustees said they needed to pay for damage caused by heavy lorries.

Tolls for cars went up from 8p to 15p, minibuses from 12p to 30p and heavy goods lorries weighing more than 3.5 tonnes going up to a flat rate of 80p.