Stonehenge Tunnel Surfaces Again: Rescue reacts

Update 13/12/2014: An article by Kate Fielden of The Stonehenge Alliance has appeared in The Ecologist, available here.

Update 24/10/2014: The Secretary of State has responsded to the Stonehenge Alliance. Read the Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin’s response here.  The Stonehenge Alliance replied to Patrick McLoughlin’s letter on the 28th October; you can read their reply here.

Talks are being held between the Department for Transport (DFT), the Highways Agency, English Heritage, the National Trust, Local Authority representatives and others in the South West seeking to improve traffic flows on the A303 corridor with funds set aside by the government for road improvements across the country. The outcome of these talks has largely been keep under wraps with final options for road improvements to be put to the government for a decision and likely inclusion in the Autumn Statement in early December.

A landscape still under threat?

Information about the options being considered for the A303 at Stonehenge is now in the public domain and we know that a bored tunnel length of between 2.5 and 2.9km as well as a northern trunk road diversion are under consideration. Most think it unlikely that the MoD will permit a new road to the north of Stonehenge and discussion is now concentrating on tunnels and tunnel length. Even a 2.9km tunnel would be far too short to protect the World Heritage Site (WHS) at Stonehenge. The WHS does not just consist of the henge but includes some 27 sq km. of its surrounding landscape. The WHS is some 5.4km across but it is already cut into by a dual carriageway for about 2km on its eastern side. A deep bored tunnel that would permit the line of the ancient Avenue, severed by the A303, to be restored, then go right under the WHS and emerge west of Longbarrow Roundabout and the remarkable Winterbourne Stoke barrow cemetery on its western boundary, would need to be at least 4.5km in length, allowing for it to begin within the already-dualled section of the road.

The Stonehenge Alliance (of which Rescue is a member organisation) has written to the Secretary of State for Transport asking for a 4.5km tunnel to be examined and costed (letter below). The need for caution and protection of the whole WHS is underlined by the astonishing new discoveries made by the Stonehenge Hidden Landscape Project over the last few years and now being publicised: www.birmingham.ac.uk/news/latest/2014/09/new-map-reveals-hidden-archaeology-of-stonehenge-10-09-14.aspx

Rescue is a member-organisation of the Stonehenge Alliance – a group of NGOs who issued a news release last week owing to rising concerns that the Government may opt for a solution to A303 traffic problems at Stonehenge with a short bored tunnel that would not protect the World Heritage Site. Under the World Heritage Convention, the Government is committed to protecting its World Heritage Sites. It is also committed to asking other States party to the Convention for financial help should it be needed for protection of its World Heritage Sites.

It difficult to understand why the Government is shy of tunnelling some 4.5km through chalk when Continental tunnels can be many kilometres long and some, such as the Gotthard tunnel, are driven through granite.

Further media attention is being generated by an article in the Heritage Journal heritageaction.wordpress.com/2014/10/18/the-games-up-english-heritage-and-the-national-trust-now-support-major-damage-at-stonehenge/ prompted by a press statement by the National Trust ntpressoffice.wordpress.com/2014/10/17/national-trust-statement-on-stonehenge-tunnel-proposal/.

What you can do to help

  • Please write to the Secretary of State for Transport asking for a long bored tunnel of at least 4.5km to be considered and costed (address on the Stonehenge Alliance letter). You could also copy your letter to the Prime Minister.
  • Please write to the Director-General of the National Trust if you are a member, asking for a change of heart and for the Trust to hold out for a long bored tunnel. Address: Dame Helen Ghosh, Director General, the National Trust, Heelis, Kemble Drive, Swindon SN2 2NA.
  • A petition has now been raised at you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-stonehenge-world-heritage-site to which you cann add your voice.

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