BUSINESSES hit by the closure of the A59 at Kex Gill have been reassured everything is being done to reopen the road as soon as possible.

The road between Skipton and Harrogate was closed two weeks ago after a eight metre long and four centimetre wide crack opened on the Harrogate bound carriageway.

North Yorkshire County Council immediately closed the road for safety reasons, diverting all traffic via Ilkley and Otley.

Yesterday (Tuesday) specialist equipment was brought onto the site to investigate the extent of the problem underground, and to determine whether there were any more 'voids'.

Cllr Don Mackenzie, council's Executive member for highways, along with ward councillors and officers, met with businesses on Monday at The Millstones, Skipton Road, to respond to their concerns.

Cllr Mackenzie told the Craven Herald that while the council had the greatest of sympathy with businesses whose trade had been hit by the closure, the safety of the travelling public must come first.

He was not able to say when the road could be reopened until after the results of the latest investigations, but there would be options available to the council, including reopening the road to one way traffic only, with traffic lights, and temporarily stopping its use by HGV traffic.

The worse case scenario, he said, was for the road to remain closed for several weeks.

Unlike previous times when a landslide has caused the closure of the road, this time movement has been in the road itself, on the east bound carriageway towards Harrogate, and to the left of the road.

"There was some concern about the slope above the highway, but that is holding up, and there is no slippage at all. This is the first time there has been instability underneath the road, and not above it," he said.

He said investigations were still underway to determine its exact depth, but it measured eight metres long, and was four or five centimetres wide.

There was also a 'kink' in the barrier at the side of the road, and instability in a retaining wall.

He said drilling would determine whether there were any more 'voids' under the highway.

Cllr Mackenzie said he wanted to make it clear that people could still reach the businesses on both sides of the closure.

Local access roads, including to Thruscross Reservoir were however closed to through traffic, with 'ambassadors' on duty 24 hours a day to make sure people took notice of the diversions.

"We are not wanting to scare people away, but we want to stop people from rat-running. It is a difficult balance.

"We expect to be able to analyse the results of the investigations in the next two to three days and will then take a decision. I have told people as soon as I know, they will know," he said.

Cllr Mackenzie added that the council had made great steps over the last two years towards its plans to realign the road, which would see a new road of about three miles long and costing about £40 million to the left of the existing road, heading towards Harrogate.

Officers are 'very close' to a preferred route for the new road, which will be brought before the council's Executive Board for a decision.

The council will then put forward a business case for government funding, and hopes to be in a position to start on site in 2019/20.