Teenage vandals are being hunted by police after wrecking a footbridge which has been closed to the public because it is deemed dangerous.

The gang of about seven 13 to 16-year-olds struck on Friday evening at the wooden bridge which spans Waller Hill beck in the Ginnel area of Skipton, by jumping on the decking and breaking through.

They returned the following day and kicked in a timber barrier, fitted to both ends of the structure, and ripped off temporary warning signs put up by Skipton town councillors Robert Heseltine and John Kerwin-Davey.

Coun Heseltine said: “When I came down here on Friday, I saw about seven hoodies jumping up and down on the bridge, braying it with lumps of wood. Some of them were bashing it through from beneath as well. I shouted at them and they ran off.”

With the help of Coun Kerwin-Davey, they both set about blocking both ends of the bridge and warning people it would be dangerous to cross. Later, the gang returned and broke down the barriers and ripped down the signs.

Earlier he had contacted Craven District Council requesting urgent action to put the bridge out of bounds to pedestrians and the authority set about placing red and white warning tape at both ends.

Coun Heseltine reported the criminal damage to Skipon police on Saturday night and said he was waiting to hear from officers.

“I can’t understand the mentality of people who will destroy the area they live in and then put people in considerable danger,” said Coun Kerwin-Davey.

A spokeswoman for Craven Council said the authority acted immediately on Monday on learning of the vandalism.

The bridge was inspected and closed by stretching tape across the access.

“We are going to have to do further work and hope it will be open again next week. Longer-term plans involved employing a contractor,” she said.

Skipton police are appealing for information about the damage. Anyone who can help should contact Skipton Police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111, quoting reference number 12130141397.

The bridge was originally constructed by pupils at Aireville School, Skipton, more than 30 years ago and then assembled at the site.

Some years ago the decking gave way beneath a pedestrian who became trapped and needed to be rescued by the fire service. He received compensation from Craven Council.