IT LOOKS like an ordinary garden fence, but these timber panels should improve the lives of people living near the A419.

The £160,000 fence, running alongside a third of a mile of the road in Lower Stratton, has been installed to reduce noise levels coming from the busy route.

North Swindon MP Michael Wills was at a ceremony to mark the completion of the noise barrier yesterday.

Mr Wills said: "It has been a very long campaign to get here, at least six years.

"When I first got involved, people here couldn't even have their windows open in the summer and the road is much worse now than when we started.

"This is going to make a huge difference to people's lives. I am very pleased with it.

"It looks like a garden fence and I think that is nice because it blends in nicely with the surroundings.

"There are towns across the country wanting acoustic barriers like this and it was my job to persuade Whitehall to give Swindon the money.

"We have had £400,000 allocated for three sections."

The 475-metre long and 3.5-metre high fence runs between Gifford Road and Godwin Road, reducing the amount of traffic noise by five decibels.

Two further sections of noise-reducing fence are also planned for the A419.

Highways Agency project manager Steve Self said: "The new fence will reduce noise from the A419 and make life more comfortable for people living in Lower Stratton.

"This is the first of three noise fences planned for the A419. Work on a fence at Covingham is currently at the design stage and subject to funding will be constructed during 2008/9. A further section is planned for the Kingsdown area."

Measurements taken before work began, showed that local residents were being subjected to 70 decibels of noise, from the dual carriageway - around the same level as a radio playing. It is thought it will now be reduced to about the same level of volume as normal conversation.

Consultancy firm WSP took charge of building the timber structure. WSP improvements manager John Stock said: "The fence is made entirely of timber, with metal supports to hold it up in the unstable ground.

The fence reflects the noise back onto the road. So on the other side it will be much louder, but it keeps it away from people's homes.

"Timber was used mainly because it is the cheapest material available but the fact that it looks nice and blends in with the environment is a bonus.

Student Scott Jefferies, who lives behind the new fence in Winton Road said: "I don't really think the fence has made much difference. You can still hear the road from outside but you can't really hear it indoors at all.

"And to be honest you just get used to it. I have lived with it so long I hardly notice it anymore."