THE festive shopping season is set to boom in Okehampton following the removal of temporary traffic lights which have sparked major hold-ups during the last eight weeks.

The temporary lights at the Fore Street and Market Street junction, were in place while the existing lights were upgraded.

The £80,000 scheme was funded by developers Bellway and Barratt Homes as part of their planning consent for the Broadpark development near Giblands. The scheme has seen the signals re-configured to maximise traffic flow through the junction.

It is hoped the new lights will improve traffic flow by 15%.

Chairman of Okehampton Chamber of Trade Ian Bailey said he welcomed the end of the lights.

He said: 'We want to welcome back all those people who have been put off coming into Okehampton since the road works began.

'I can assure everyone that the businesses in Okehampton are happy the roadworks are completed.

'Many traders have reported their turnover down by a substantial amount over this period.

'Now we have the run-up to Christmas and I know the businesses are ready to welcome people over this period, and as always we will have the lights that are the envy of other towns throughout the county.

'This Edwardian Evening will be extra special to us all, as a chance to remind everyone that Okehampton is a busy, vibrant town with plenty to offer customers who want to shop at a variety of well known nationals and independent shops.'

Devon County Council cabinet member for highways and transportation Cllr Stuart Hughes said work on the traffic lights was successfully completed within a tight nine-week schedule and was programmed to be carried out after the summer peak and before the beginning of December, after consultation with the town council.

He said: 'The upgrading and co-ordination of the signals at this busy junction should provide a noticeable improvement to traffic flows.'

The junction signals are now linked to the existing, signal-controlled crossing in Fore Street to co-ordinate signal times.

The existing zebra crossing in Market Street has also been improved to become a signal- controlled pedestrian crossing, which has been linked to the same system.  

The signals at the junction are controlled by a state of the art Microprocessor Optimised Vehicle Activation system (MOVA), a more efficient form of signal junction control that is able to reduce delays, particularly at peak times.

Devon County councillor for Okehampton Rural, Cllr Christine Marsh, said: 'I have already had several positive comments, in particular the improved flow of traffic in Market Street.

'I would like to thank the county council officers who came to discuss the arrangements with the Chamber of Trade and town council which helped keep everyone informed.'

Mayor of Okehampton Cllr David Weekes said: 'The temporary traffic lights had been detrimental to the businesses in Okehampton, with the increased fuel consumption sitting in the lights and the time factor to get to work.

'It will be nice to see the back of them and I look forward to some different lights coming up — the Christmas lights, which will draw people back into the town.'

Edwardian Evening takes place today (Thursday).

There will be a traditional hog roast and hot chestnuts for sale, as well as plenty of stalls and entertainment.