25 years on: The day a town's traffic nightmare came to an end
- Credit: Archant Library
25 years ago, the new £16.5 million A11 Wymondham bypass opened, ending years of congestion through the town - a notorious bottleneck and accident blackspot.
On March 22, 1996, the 5.4 mile stretch of dual carriageway opened after three years of work - running from the Norwich side of Wymondham to the A11 at Besthorpe.
Roads minister John Watts cut the ribbon at the opening ceremony with former transport secretary and south Norfolk MP John MacGregor.
Traffic experts predicted the route could reduce the accident rate along the stretch by 60 per cent and cut the traffic rate on the existing A11 in Wymondham by 80 per cent.
An anticipated 16,000 vehicles would drive along the new bypass each day, skirting Wymondham and what had been the only set of traffic lights on the A11 at the time.
But environmentalists denounced the bypass claiming it would destroy Norfolk's rural charm and increase pollution. There were also concerns about how the construction and new road would disturb a colony of rare great crested newts.
For instance, in February 1994 five members of a group calling themselves the Lizard Tribe occupied diggers for six hours in an attempt to disrupt hedgerow clearance near Spooner Row.
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The bypass project included £150,000 spent on 150,000 shrubs and 40,000 trees to line the route. Another £150,000 created a new habitat for the colony of great crested newts in the area with a series of ponds and a special fence to prevent them from getting onto the road.
Many locals welcomed the bypass and the positive impacts it would have on their lives.
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Samantha and Wayne Rice lived on London Road. They looked forward to getting a good night's sleep and tending their front garden without inhaling fumes.
Mrs Rice said: "You can't have your windows open because of all the dust and pollution, and it can take up to 25 minutes to get out of the drive in the car."
Vic and Rita Hawes also lived in the area. Mr Hawes described: "When lorries go past you can feel the house shake. And it is frightening walking into town because they mount the pavements, so you really have to watch out for the kiddies.
"It is going to be heaven when the bypass opens," he said a week before the official ribbon-cutting session.
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