A major trunk road connecting Skipton to Harrogate has been closed following a landslide, forcing motorists to take lengthy detours.

The A59 at Kex Gill, near Blubberhouses, was shut by North Yorkshire County Council highways engineers on Friday after technical experts were called in to investigate why part of a dry stone wall had been pushed in to the road.

Engineers believe the wall had fallen forward due to pressure from a landslide brought about by stormy weather on Thursday night. The heavy rainfall had uprooted trees on the hill behind the road, dislodging the thin layer of peat and bracken that covers the rocky ground.

Traffic is being diverted through Otley and Ilkley.

Last week’s landslide is the latest in a series at Kex Gill over the past 10 years. In June 2007, the road was closed for more than a week after 100 tonnes of material slid down the hillside.

Julian Smith MP, who is currently leading a campaign to save Skipton Magistrates’ Court, which is threatened with closure, said the latest incident illustrated the problems that would be created by moving court cases from Skipton to Harrogate.

“The journey between the towns is often slow and difficult at the best of times,” said Mr Smith. “With the A59 closed for lengthy periods, as is happening now and as happened just a few years ago, that journey along a lengthy diversion becomes even more difficult and takes even more time. As the Ministry of Justice considers the future for Skipton’s courts, I will be letting them know about the current severe disruption.”

It is expected the road will re-open on Friday evening.

The county council is planning to carry out a £500,000 improvement scheme to the slopes alongside the A59 at Kex Gill, starting early next year.

County Coun Gareth Dadd, North Yorkshire’s executive member for highways, said: “We are working as hard and fast as we can to make the A59 safe for motorists. Moreover, the improvement scheme on the A59, which we had already scheduled to begin in the new year, will ensure the safety of the road in the longer term by preventing landslides such as this in future years.”