The 60 year battle for a bypass and how it boosted a traffic-clogged Norfolk village

Acle by-pass opens, March 17, 1989. Photo: Archant Library

Acle by-pass opens, March 17, 1989. Photo: Archant Library

It's hard to imagine, but once upon a time all the traffic that thunders along the A47 between Great Yarmouth and Norwich had to squeeze its way right through the middle of Acle.

Aerial view of Acle bypass dated October 2 1988 Picture: Archant library

Aerial view of Acle bypass dated October 2 1988 Picture: Archant library - Credit: Archant

Residents recall on a Saturday it was nose-to-tail with shoppers avoiding the high street because even if they got in, getting out again would be a whole new jam.

But all that came to an end 30 years ago when the bypass was finally opened, local folk waving placards saying goodbye to all the trucks that belched and blundered passed their homes.

Acle archivist Brian Grint was head of the celebration committee at the time and recalls the sense of relief when the new road opened, effectively turning the tap on traffic to just a trickle overnight. Having opened four months early, all the events marking its completion were scheduled for the summer and they went ahead with them anyway, thousands turning out to celebrate at a carnival.

Mr Grint said the village had first asked for traffic to be taken away in 1927 and that finally getting it built brought huge economic benefits.

A traffic free Acle centre after the bypass opening, March 14, 1989. Photo: Archant Library

A traffic free Acle centre after the bypass opening, March 14, 1989. Photo: Archant Library - Credit: Archant Library


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Far from being cut off Acle saw an influx of people suddenly keen to bank, shop, eat and wander its high street, which was even more welcoming.

Although there was little fanfare to mark the 30th anniversary milestone the village archives including video and photos from the period were being moved to the Recreation Centre where they would be more easily accessible, Mr Grint added.

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The £7.6m bypass was opened by transport minister Peter Bottomley who warned crowds about the danger of the fast moving traffic.

At the time Norfolk Line lorries heading to and from the port in Yarmouth were a particular bone of contention with this newspaper reporting banners hung from windows cheering the detour that was taking them away.

The ribbon is cut to officially open the new Acle bypass in 1989 Picture: Archant library

The ribbon is cut to officially open the new Acle bypass in 1989 Picture: Archant library - Credit: Archant

It was estimated 10,500 cars and lorries passed through the village every day.

And while the new bypass was something to be trumpeted, some took the opportunity to push for the rest of the road to be turned into dual carriageway with arguments still being heard for the Acle Straight to this day.

The road was also hailed for its engineering prowess with those behind the scheme facing particular challenges to do with the poor ground conditions.

It meant a 390m stretch at the eastern end was carried on a reinforced concrete slab supported by 595 pre-cast concrete piles.

The 4.2km stretch took two years to complete.

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