UK agriculture minister Nick Brown is set to meet the farmers at the centre of the latest cluster of foot-and-mouth cases in the Yorkshire Dales as concerns grow over the new outbreak. The area has now reported 18 cases of the disease near Settle and over 1,000 farms have been placed under movement restrictions in a bid to prevent the spread of the virus.

As well as meeting the police, council officers and tourist bosses, Brown will talk with the local branch of the National Farmers’ Union. The group’s secretary in Skipton, Tim Palmer, has revealed the frustration many local farmers are feeling: “Our members feel that they have been ignored and that this is not just a blip at the end of the foot-and-mouth crisis. This is a major extension to the epidemic.”

The Prime Minister Tony Blair is meanwhile adamant that while the cases are worrying, the crisis as a whole is still on the wane.

Shadow agriculture minister Tim Yeo has already visited the area and has called for a top Army officer to be put in charge of the operation and coordinate action to ensure resources are being used efficiently.