FEARS an unexploded bomb had been discovered during roadworks brought a town to a standstill this afternoon - but officials later said it was just a metal pipe.

A main road was closed off after the discovery of a suspected wartime shell shortly before midday.

Workmen carrying out roadworks on the A23 London Road, Crawley, uncovered what they believed to be a one-and-a-half foot long piece of metal.

The road was closed in both directions between the Fleming Way Roundabout at Astral Towers and the Lowfield Heath roundabout while an army bomb disposal team was called to inspect the item.

Employees in nearby buildings said they were asked to remain inside also.

And people at the Premier Inn and Ibis hotels were asked to remain inside.

On arrival the police initially believed the shell was in fact a piece of metal.

But there was confusion after a British Army spokesman said the device was a bomb or a Second World War shell.

He said: "The device was taken away and reports of it being a pipe were incorrect."

But later when contacted by The Argus again he confirmed the incident was a false alarm and the item was not ammunition but may have been a pipe or a piece of iron.

Nicola Webber, manager of Brookfield Day Nursery and Holiday Club, said the incident was a "total nightmare" which saw 60 parents and children taking cover indoors.

She said: "We had a phone call from the police at around 1pm and we were just told to stay indoors and keep the children away from the windows. We had no idea what was going on and it was really frightening. Then I managed to get hold of the police again and find out that there was believed to be an explosive device along the road from us and that made everyone quite scared."

She said the centre was hosting a graduation celebration for the children.

She said: "The road was closed so parents who were coming for the ceremony could not get to us, and no-one could get out. We had to wait an hour and a half. I decided I would have to cancel the celebration but just at that moment a police officer visited to give us the all clear and we were able to carry on."

Inspector Andy Sanford, of Sussex Police, said: "We had to close the road for the protection of the public in case the item was a live shell.

"I would like to thank people for their patience.

"We apologise for any delays this may have caused but we had to make sure the area was safe."