When we read in the Telegraph this week that “English Heritage is continuing to push for the A303 [at Stonehenge] to go into a tunnel” many of us may have turned for a moment into a version of Dame Edith Evans !
Not that any of us would be against the idea of a tunnel at Stonehenge, who could be? But a couple of things need keeping in mind:
First, there’s no money for it and not likely to be for a long time. Or to be more precise, the Government doesn’t think it’s worth spending the money on it rather than other things.
Second, there are tunnels and tunnels. In the past the Government has consistently supported only “cheap and damaging” ones so before anyone starts celebrating because EH is pushing for a tunnel they should find out what sort of tunnel they have in mind. Originally the Government wanted a cheap “cut-and cover” one that would have involved excavating a massive trench across 2 miles of the World Heritage Site causing mind-blowing loss of archaeology – and EH supported them. Then more recently the Government wanted to build a “short tunnel” with associated massive damage due to the building of roads in massive cuttings each end – and EH supported them again in the teeth of opposition from nearly every archaeological and conservation organisation including the National Trust, the Council for British Archaeology, the Campaign to Protect Rural England and Friends of the Earth.
So bravo if EH are quietly pushing for a Stonehenge tunnel – but only if it’s a long, deep-bored one that all the main archaeological and conservation organisations support.