Norfolk takes down roadsigns to keep one of England's best kept secrets exactly that

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The Independent Online

Sixty years ago the cunning villagers throughout England took down their signposts to confuse Nazi spies. Now in the south of England they are doing much the same to deter unwanted motorists.

Sixty years ago the cunning villagers throughout England took down their signposts to confuse Nazi spies. Now in the south of England they are doing much the same to deter unwanted motorists.

It is not the summer of 1940 and Britain is no longer at risk of invasion from Operation Sealion but in a pilot scheme that could spread to the rest of the country, Norfolk County Council is taking down road signs in a 25 square mile area. In their place it is erecting signs that lead motorists away from quiet villages.

The "Quiet Lanes" scheme is being trialled in an attempt to discourage drivers from the network of narrow, single-track roads that spreads across north-east Norfolk.

"At the moment more and more people are using these rat runs and local people have been complaining to the parish councils," said a spokesman for the council.

"We cannot put down things like road humps or that sort of stuff. Many people would feel that was inappropriate for a rural area and there is also the matter of cost.

"We have no legal enforcement powers - rather we are trying to persuade motorists who use these roads to take a more responsible attitude."

As part of the government-sponsored scheme, the county council has been liaising withparish councils to decide which lanes should be designated "quiet". It then erects signs at both ends of the lanes informing drivers that they are entering a special area.

The signposts identify the villages to which the lanes lead but do not mention other towns that could also be reached. These are instead mentioned on other signs which direct motorists along more appropriate routes.

Stanley Williams, the chairman of Bacton parish council, which is taking part in the scheme, said he believed the trial could have positive results. "We are hoping that cars will use the roads a lot more carefully," he said.

"The new signs still tell people where the villages are but other places that can be reached through the villages are not so clearly marked. The idea is to stop people using these narrow roads for getting to other places."

The long-term aim of the scheme is to leave the lanes clear for walkers, cyclists and horse-riders but Mr Williams said that not everyone was convinced that was a good idea.

"Some people think there is a problem with all the walkers we get around here," he said. "Most are fine but sometimes you get groups walking down the middle of the road and taking up all the room.

"You have to give them a toot if you want them to get out of the way."

Councillor Liz Cornwall, the mayor of North Walsham, agrees not everyone was enthusiastic about the new scheme. "I think people with cars are not as pleased as those who like to walk or cycle," she said. "I think that many people have got it in their heads they cannot use these roads. We are not saying that - we are just asking them to drive more carefully and slowly."

Mrs Cornwall said that in recent years there had been a significant increase in the number of motorists in the area - the result of sharp increase in the population of the town.

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