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Peace in our time!

PUBLISHED: 14:38 19 March 2009 | UPDATED: 13:23 03 July 2010

Peace at last: An aerial view of the new road back in 1989.

Peace at last: An aerial view of the new road back in 1989.

IT had been more than two decades in the planning, but eventually the A47 Acle bypass opened 20 years ago - on March 14, 1989.

Opinion among the village's 2,000 residents was divided; would trade in shops and businesses be affected? However, the loss of the almost permanent hum of traffic and air pollution soon won over hearts and minds.

Snip! It's open: Roads minister Peter Bottomley performing the A47 Acle bypass opening ceremony, helped by the then Mid-Norfolk MP Richard Ryder, and other civic leaders.

IT had been more than two decades in the planning, but eventually the A47 Acle bypass opened 20 years ago - on March 14, 1989.

Opinion among the village's 2,000 residents was divided; would trade in shops and businesses be affected? However, the loss of the almost permanent hum of traffic and air pollution soon won over hearts and minds.

There had been more than 10,000 vehicles thundering daily through the pretty, winding village, making it hard to cross the road and go about normal business.

Parish councillor Brian Grint was convinced from the start that the bypass would be good for the village.

Vernon Cumpstey: "Once the new  road opened it didn't take long for trade to start building up."

The plans for the multi-million pound, two-mile bypass were reported in the Mercury on May 3, 1985. Two years later, work began.

Brian said: “The traffic coming through this area was killing off our local trade. Fewer people would come to the village from outside to do their shopping because they could never get in due to traffic congestion, especially on a Saturday.

“Then, during the summer, holidaymakers coming along the A47 to Great Yarmouth would also cause major tailbacks. On top of that there were mods on scooters who would buzz their way through the village on their way to Yarmouth, and also there would be a swell of traffic attending the Hemsby rock 'n' roll weekends.”

The £7.6m bypass was opened by the then roads minister, Peter Bottomley, at 11.15am on March 14 amid cheers and banner-waving villagers. Slogans included: “Goodbye lorries, we'll not miss you.”

Brian said: “Peter Bottomley said to me: 'I believe you've been waiting for this bypass for 20 years.' I took great pleasure in telling him that the original idea had been mooted in 1927, so it was closer to 60 years!”

Three months later, villagers held a Victorian-themed weekend to celebrate. It was a glorious weekend, and any fears about lost trade were quickly dashed as hundreds of people flocked there.

Butcher Vernon Cumpstey, 63, said: “I think we were all a little concerned to start with. People had found it difficult getting into the village because of all the traffic, but once the new road opened it didn't take long for trade to start building up, and I've never looked back.” Outside his shop the other day he had a board declaring: “20 years later and you still can't bypass our prices.”

Keith Miller, 60, has worked at Wilkinson's hardware store for 23 years. He said: “Every Friday and afternoon and all Saturday there would be non-stop traffic. Obviously our trade suffered, but once the bypass opened word got around very quickly and we noticed the increase in trade in two to three months. It was quite a dramatic change, very quick. We didn't worry about the new road opening because there was nothing we could do anyway.”

Nigel and Brenda Law, who run the post office and general store, weren't living in the village at the time, but Nigel said: “When you see how much traffic uses the A47 it makes you wonder what it would have been like here had the bypass not happened. The village would be permanently congested.”

Acle Archive is holding an open day tomorrow. Photographs taken at the opening and celebration events will be on display at the Kingfisher Rooms, Herondale, Bridewell Lane, from 10am-2.30pm.

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