30th Anniversary Of Capel Underpass

This winter marks the 30th anniversary of the opening of the Capel underpass. It was the result of a long and hard-fought campaign by Capel and Bentley Parish Councils and local campaigners, including Sue Carpendale, Sue Thomas and Kathy Pollard.


Current parish council chairman Brian Rogers commented: “You took your life in your hands turning into the village coming from Ipswich. My wife Barbara remembers it very well as this was the time she was learning to drive!”


Many villagers remember what the junction was like before the underpass. Councillor Sue Carpendale said: “I knew my children would, in future years, be on the school bus going to East Bergholt. I also knew I wouldn’t sleep at night if all those children had to be on buses turning right onto that lethal road. That was why I got involved in the campaign.”


Sue Thomas, who was chair of the parish council when the underpass opened, added: “Before the underpass I used to avoid turning right into the village from the A12. Instead I would drive round the back roads to get home from Ipswich.”


Following the opening of the A12 section of the Ipswich bypass in 1984 there were five serious accidents at the junction. A petition calling for an underpass to be built was organised and 1,500 signatures were handed to Tim Yeo MP.


The following year, when Transport Secretary Lynda Chalker came to officially open the A14 section of the bypass, villagers from Capel and Bentley again took the opportunity to put the case for the underpass. In May 1986, a deputation from Capel and Bentley Parish Councils went to Westminster to lobby the new Transport Minister, Peter Bottomley. Six months later there were two fatal accidents at the junction and campaigners realised that urgent action was needed.


The parish council organised a petition, which was signed by 2,000 people and villagers sent a five-foot-high Christmas card to Peter Bottomley with 800 signatures. It had a cartoon of Santa, with his sleigh and reindeer trying, unsuccessfully, to cross the A12 – with the slogan ‘All we want for Christmas is our Underpass’. In February 1987 we at last received the news that the underpass had been given the go-ahead! It had taken years of persistent campaigning.


Kathy Pollard comments: “After various legal and planning hurdles we did, at last, get the underpass for Christmas – four years later in 1990! We were so grateful, and it has saved many lives since then.” In the photo (Christmas 1990), villagers present a large Christmas card to workers as well as a cake kindly donated by Capel Bakery.

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