A LONG-awaited bypass near Melksham is to open today, nearly 40 years after it was first proposed.

People living in Semington have planned a series of events culminating in a three-day party to celebrate getting rid of the traffic thundering through the village.

Parish council chairman Anglea Weston said: "It is going to make a huge difference to our village not having the traffic going through. It is going to be the village that it should be."

Villagers are expected to turn out in force at the opening ceremony this afternoon and will be taking part in a torchlight parade along the High Street on Sunday to celebrate their new peaceful home. The £12m new road is expected to take about 20,000 vehicles a day and will allow sections of the busy A350 running through Semington to be closed.

A part of the new bypass opened to traffic two weeks ago and villagers say it has already made a huge difference to their quality of life.

Dave Vooght, of Little Marsh, said: "The first few nights it was difficult to sleep because it was so quiet without the traffic noise but it is very nice.

"It was extremely dangerous getting in and out of Little Marsh. Lots of residents of the lane have had accidents there and now we are completely out of that situation."

People living in Semington have been fundraising for a year to mark the event.

The By-Bye 350 campaign was launched at a fundraising day last June and has since raised £1,200 towards a big celebration in the summer.

They will be holding a three-day family event called Semington in Bloom, with a street party, games, a treasure hunt and other activities for adults and children.

The event will culminate on June 27 with an open garden celebration when the public are invited to come and look around the village.

Work on the 4.5km bypass began in February last year.

One of the biggest costs involved was the construction of a £1m aqueduct to carry the Kennet and Avon Canal over the road.

Cash has been spent on landscaping and protecting wildlife, while cycleways and paths have also been provided.