Long-awaited improvements to a main town junction have been heralded as a “major step forward” in the battle against congestion.

The traffic lights at Malton’s Butcher Corner are expected to be upgraded to a new, more efficient system in coming months, with a right-turn filter arrow finally added to the Castlegate arm after years of calls for it to happen.

Norton councillor Keane Duncan said the news from North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) was “long overdue, but very welcome” after years of campaigning to deliver measures to cut congestion.

He said: “We have finally had confirmation that the traffic lights at Butcher Corner are expected to be improved and updated.

“The lights will be upgraded to a MOVA system. This means the green time will be continually adjusted for each arm of the junction in live time based on the number of approaching vehicles and the impact queues will have overall.”

Cllr Keane added: “At the same time there will also be a right-turn filter arrow added to the Castlegate arm of the junction.

“This will allow traffic from Norton proper time to turn into Old Maltongate, something that is very difficult to do presently.

“The new system should cut queues and result in much quicker journeys between Malton and Norton. Overall, the improvements present a major step forward in efforts to combat congestion.”

The works at Butcher Corner should be completed by April at the latest.

Meanwhile, NYCC is continuing work on a second phase of improvements, which would see the creation of a new signal-controlled junction around the level crossing in Norton.

Cllr Duncan said: “Looking further ahead, North Yorkshire County Council is looking to introduce new signals at the level crossing junction.

“This would finally end the years of frustration created by the highly-controversial and sudden change to the priorities back in December 2016.

“The new system would allow motorists from all directions a fair chance to move in and out of the junction safely. It would also improve pedestrian safety with new crossings introduced. The scheme would involve Norton Road/Blackboards becoming a one-way street towards Asda.

“Tackling all of Malton and Norton’s traffic problems - especially in a way that pleases everybody - is a very difficult task, but it is vital that authorities do what they can do to help improve the situation.

“As we finally make some progress, I would encourage the public to continue sharing their views with me so I can ensure these are heard by decision-makers at every stage.”

Cllr Di Keal, chair of the Policy & Resources Committee at Ryedale District Council and Norton town councillor, said: “This is an excellent move forward on reducing traffic congestion in Malton and Norton, but I would urge the county council to move forward faster on the other measures that have been agreed, such as the traffic lights at County Bridge and the trial one-way system on Norton Road.

“Simply changing priorities at Butcher Corner won’t solve the appalling traffic problems in our twin towns, we need to see so much more happen.

“Discussions on these changes have been going on for many years now and until other changes, such as the traffic lights being installed, improvements in congestion levels will be limited.

“Ultimately what is needed is taking more traffic out of the towns completely which will both reduce congestion and address pollution levels, but this won’t be achieved until we see some real progress on a new junction off Broughton Road and an upgrade at Mosley Bank.”