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Stonehenge Tunnel

Stonehenge Tunnel Inquiry

A public inquiry began on 17th Feb. 04 in Salisbury, Wiltshire, regarding government plans to build a road tunnel under Stonehenge. They claim the tunnel will restore Salisbury Plain to a traditional, unspoilt chalk downlands and the famous megaliths to a prehistoric setting. Opponents of the project, The Stonehenge Alliance, argued that the proposed 2.1km (1.3 mile) tunnel is too short, and will damage important areas surrounding the ancient site, instead of protecting it.

stonehenge  landscape

Stonehenge solstice dawn
Tunnel plan to be reviewed
The government has announced it is to review the scheme, due to the escalating costs of the proposed tunnel past Stonehenge.
Many campaigners welome the review, Chris Woodford of Save Stonehenge! commented:

' We welcome the announcement of a review. We've seen too much blinkered bulldozing from governments in the past. What we must do at Stonehenge is not the quickest thing or even the cheapest thing -- but the right thing. It doesn't matter if it takes 5 years, 50 years, or 500 years to sort out Stonehenge. This sacred site has been there five thousand years and we should not be remembered as the generation who screwed it up.'

The Alliance still believes the road scheme would cause severe and permanent damage to the World Heritage Site and should not to be allowed.
stonehenge stonehenge sunrise

Latest Stonehenge Tunnel news

The plan was scrapped on Thursday, 6 December 2007!

July 2012

Building begins on new Stonehenge visitor's centre

June 2007
There has still been no decision made regarding the proposed Stonehenge tunnel - we all wait apprehensively for any news.

March 2007
The earlier rejected plans for
English Heritage's proposed visitor-centre have now been given 'conditional approval' after an appeal. The Secretary of State has revealed that the new visitor-centre will only go ahead once the government approves the published A303 roads scheme.

Leave Stonehenge alone October 2006
Professor Peter Fowler, an expert on the Stonehenge landscape, spoke about the proposed tunnel at a Council for British Archaeology event, celebrating the 20th anniversary of Stonehenge and Avebury becoming a World Heritage Site. Prof Fowler suggested that as no tunnel looks likely to be built, then the A303 should be kept where it is, adding, "because neither widening it nor allowing it to career off sinuously to north or south is an option."

Professor Fowler believes visitors to Stonehenge would appreciate and enjoy the monument and surrounding landscape more by using, "low tech interpretation at perimeter points, to encourage walkers, cyclists and horse riders" is the best decision for the Heritage site.

The government is still yet to make a decision, after two public inquiries and last summer's public consultation. The most recent inquiry recommended replacing the road with a long tunnel, which the government rejected due to the proposed cost, and has now called for further consultation on all the Stonehenge options.

New visitor-centre plans turned down

July 2005 Salisbury District Council has refused planning permission for English Heritage's proposed £67 million visitor centre.
The plan was to build a new Stonehenge visitor-centre, 3km east of the stones and close to the A303/A345 roundabout junction.
Among reasons for the planning refusal is the fact that the new visitor centre would rely upon the provision of a flyover at Countess Roundabout - part of the A303 Trunk Road Stonehenge Improvement Orders.
English Heritage has the right to re-submit their proposals and address the issues surrounding the refusal.


Tunnel proposal cost grows

There is now growing uncertainty regarding the flyover, mainly due to the predicted cost - initially costs were estimated to be £183m, but this has now risen to £470m. The main reasons for the increase in estimated costs is the discovery of very large quantities of soft, weak chalk and a high water table, with the groundwater likely to rise to the surface during periods of heavy rainfall.



English Heritage, the monument keepers, support the Highways Agency proposal :
  • To bore a twin tunnel to re-route the single-carriage A303 as a dual carriageway, beneath the World Heritage Site and to close a section of the A344 - in order to reduce traffic congestion around the stones. The current road carries approx.20,000 vehicles a day.
  • To build a new £57 million visitor's centre - to improve visitor facilities. The stones are visited by over a million people a year.
    See the proposals: The Stonehenge project

The site's landowners, The National Trust, believe the proposed tunnel should be longer.
' The National Trust remains unconvinced that the Government’s plan for a 2.1 kilometre tunnel will adequately safeguard the integrity of the site. This is a special site, not least for the unique sense of place which it inspires. We believe there are strong archaeological and curatorial reasons for building as long a tunnel as can be achieved, to preserve and enhance both the tangible and intangible qualities of the site.' (June 2003)

They are joined by groups such as: The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), The Council for British Archaeology (CBA), Icomos
( the international body representing conservation experts), 'Save Stonehenge', (which represents local campaigners) and the Friends of the Earth. The Stonehenge Alliance believes the tunnel should be doubled in length to 2.8 miles, and suggest that the proposed shorter tunnel will damage the site for the sake of short term traffic congestion.
The CBA commented:
'At Stonehenge of all places - one of immense antiquity and Britain's premier international attraction - such decisions require a long-term vision of centuries or even millennia, not just decades.' (Dec.2002)
See CBA's statement: Brit Arch
standing stone at sunrise

Potential problems with Tunnel plan

The campaigners are concerned that the tunnel portals will degrade the landscape near the ancient stones, including a Neolithic barrow within a few metres of one of the proposed entrances, and that the new road and resulting earthworks will affect a large historic part of the area.
The new dual-carriageway will cross the Avenue - the ancient track used by pilgrims to visit the stones.
A Bronze Age earthwork - part of the ceremonial approach to the stones - would remain severed by the A303.
The proposed scheme will impact on nine areas where archaeological remains have been identified.

The opposition also suggests the proposed road will have a damaging ecological impact on the Till and Avon rivers. The government has resisted pleas to extend the proposed road scheme, and the planning inspector can only make a recommendation to the relevant ministers, Mr Darling and the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott. They will make the final decision, and work will begin by 2005 if the scheme is approved. Traffic would be re-routed underground Stonehenge by 2008.

Campaign group Save Stonehenge fears that the inquiry will simply 'rubber stamp' a decision to construct the road that was made several years ago. Save Stonehenge was formed in 1999 and has a mailing list of 1500 supporters; its website attracts visitors from more than 30 different countries, reflecting international concern in the issue.

 

 

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