AN experimental ban on heavy commercial vehicles from a congestion hotspot looks set to be made permanent after it was found it had lead to air quality improvements.

North Yorkshire County Council’s executive has been recommended to ratify the 7.5-tonne weight restriction at Norton Level Crossing, after an eight-year campaign to tackle pollution and road safety in the Malton and Norton.

The authority’s Thirsk and Malton constituency committee agreed on the move after hearing while highways bosses were continuing to examine data from an 18-month pilot scheme to test the ban, councillors had no option to decide whether to make ban permanent or let it expire.

The meeting was told both Malton and Norton town councils and Ryedale District Council were supportive of the move.

The vote comes just three months after Norton councillor Keane Duncan, who has since become the district council’s leader, questioned whether the ban should be continued, saying he suspected it would not have made a significant difference to pollution levels.

At the time, concerns were also raised that despite the ban large numbers of lorries continued to emit fumes at Butcher Corner crossroads, which has been under surveillance since 2003 when high levels of nitrogen dioxide were identified.

Malton member Councillor Lindsay Burr told the meeting while it was disappointing that the traffic data was not available, the council’s top priority had to be for the health of residents and should adopt a clean air policy.

She said: “Air pollution is a significant threat to public health and I have campaigned for many many years to get HGVs out of the towns. There will always be some people who will not agree to this, however it is now safe to push our prams and walk with our small children up and down Malton and Norton. It is now acceptable and safe for me to push my mum-in-law in a wheelchair. As policy-makers we must take note that 400,000 early deaths are caused by air pollution.”

Cllr Burr said she remained confident that a “meaningful solution” to the displaced traffic could be found.

Highways officer Richard Marr said traffic data should be available next year for a review of the ban.