A SCHEME designed to reduce congestion and improve traffic management comes into effect this week.

The permit scheme is being introduced by North Yorkshire County Council to improve the control and management of work across the county’s roads.

Previously, utilities companies such as electricity, water, gas and telecommunications, had only to notify the county council of intended work.

The council could provide direction and apply penalties if a company breached the notice, but had limited control over when work was done.

Under the new scheme, all scheduled work must be granted a permit and the county council has greater ability to ensure that work in the same area does not clash and that, where possible, jobs avoid peak times of day and busy times of year.

It can impose conditions, such as the rapid removal of equipment and signs after work is completed, and impose penalties for breaching conditions or working without a permit.

Norton county councillor Keane Duncan said the permit scheme would increase the council’s control over roadworks and hopefully help cut delays.

He said: “Roadworks are infuriating at the best of times, but it is even worse when you see swathes of road shut-off with no sign of activity, or for one utility company to finally finish work, only for another to dig it up a short time later.

Malton and Norton have faced more than their fair share of disruption in recent months.

"The council can start to take control over how long works can take and how they are carried out.”

Cllr Duncan added: “Until now, utility companies only had to notify the county council of intended work. Under the new scheme, the council will authorise all works on the highway.

“Companies will pay for a permit and discounts will give them an incentive to work outside peak times and to co-operate with other utilities that need to work in the same area.

“This gives the council greater ability to ensure that works do not clash and that where possible are done outside peak times.

"It can also apply conditions and impose penalties for breaching those conditions or working without a permit.”

Councillor Don Mackenzie, executive member for highways, said: “Our main objective with this scheme is to cut congestion and to reduce delays for the travelling public.

"We recognise that utility companies need to have access to their equipment under the highway in order to maintain supplies to their customers.

"On the other hand, highways work can cause delays and inconvenience to the public and to businesses.

"The permit scheme will increase the ability of the county council to manage and co-ordinate those activities to the benefit of all road users.”