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NASA says the archaeological remains at the Apollo landing site (for such they are) are important to mankind and a priceless human treasure and must be protected – so they want to establish a protection zone of at least 1.2 miles round them. Few would argue with that.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, the National Trust recently echoed their words, sort of, when they said “the Stonehenge Landscape is among the most precious places on the planet“. Few would argue with that either.
But there the similarity ends for despite what they said then, the National Trust have just announced they’ll support a proposal to create a massive cutting in that landscape within walking distance of the actual stones. That makes them look pretty bad compared with NASA, but they also look pretty bad compared with themselves: years ago they said any tunnel HAD to be at least 2.8 miles long, now they’re saying a 1.8 mile tunnel will do – that’s a whole mile shorter and with entrance cuttings projecting a whole mile further into the World Heritage Site. Yet it’s the same World Heritage Site, the only difference being that loads more features and sites have recently been discovered within it. Can anyone explain that?!
Or this: right now on the HS2 route through the Chilterns the National Trust are insisting on a 15 mile tunnel – more than eight times longer than at Stonehenge!
Please sign the “Save Stonehenge World Heritage Site” petition.
According to the Western Morning News …..
“Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has hailed English Heritage and National Trust’s backing of a possible tunnel under Stonehenge as an “an important milestone” in ending the traffic nightmare on the A303.
In a letter to Yeovil MP David Laws, the Conservative Secretary of State said their “in-principle” support, revealed two weeks’ ago, paved the way for finding a “solution to the problems that exist” on the notorious A303, A30 and A358 corridor.”
We were going to write just this…..
Since the Government’s intentions about the A303 at Stonehenge aren’t yet made public we have to make do with 2 verbal clues:
- “We are discussing a range of potential options.“ So, a range of options, not all of them. We can safely assume that the “long tunnel” option isn’t being discussed as it’s missing from the published list of options.
- “we have worked closely with key organisations, including English Heritage and the National Trust”. So, the only two heritage organisations mentioned as being “worked closely with” are one that supported the short tunnel last time and one that didn’t but is strongly rumoured to be prepared to reverse its stance if its land isn’t touched.
So who’d bet against a short tunnel? And aren’t these words pretty slippery:
- “No investment decisions have been made”. But if the long tunnel is missing from the list of options the biggest investment decision has been made. The Autumn Statement will specify the short tunnel no doubt and the only faint hope for avoiding it thereafter will be if all those organisations who opposed it so passionately last time unite to do so again. It would be ironic if the organisation with the watchword “forever, for everyone” broke ranks and agreed to the damage.
But now we have to write this….
It has been revealed in the Financial Times that English Heritage and the National Trust are both willing to support a short tunnel. It won’t encroach on their land, it will threaten any number of monuments and damage any number of monument settings within the World Heritage Site and it does offer the opportunity to expand an enclosed theme park.
You might very well think that any conservation bodies worthy of the name would fight like tigers (for a very long time, and in public) for a long tunnel – since one takes donations to stand up for special places “forever, for everyone” and the other takes taxpayers’ money to be England’s official “heritage champion”, but you’d be wrong, evidently. It’s notable though that both have successfully defended their own patches. So it’s an awful day for the Stonehenge World Heritage Site and a much better one for NT and EH.
But here’s the bit that will stay on their respective records forever:
Here’s the National Trust Press Office’s attempt to justify the organisation’s craven abdication of its moral duty to everyone who ever sent it money http://ntpressoffice.wordpress.com/2014/10/17/national-trust-statement-on-stonehenge-tunnel-proposal/
(A remarkably similar statement can be expected from the English Heritage Press Office shortly!)
If you agree that Stonehenge is special, you might like to support our call by writing to the Secretary of State, asking that if a new road is going to be constructed, it should be in a tunnel at least 4.5km long. Thank you.
Regular readers will know that for years we’ve been worrying that the Government will impose a cheap short tunnel (with damaging cuttings at each end) on the Stonehenge World Heritage Site – and thus go back to the solution opposed by almost every archaeological and heritage organisation but cancelled only because of the credit crunch. Now it looks as if this highly damaging spectre has risen again with two short tunnel options being discussed, with the only other option said to be a northern bypass. (The latter sounds so impractical, disruptive, damaging and expensive it’s hard to believe anyone is serious about it. Could it be a mere “Aunt Sally” option, set up to be universally rejected to give the impression the public has been involved in a choice?)
We know there is a traffic problem and a solution has to be found to combat the misery of the A303. But here’s the thing: last time, nearly everyone said the short tunnel option was unacceptable. How then can it now be acceptable, particularly when Professor Vince Gaffney and others have now discovered hundreds of new features within the Stonehenge World Heritage Site? How would access roads to a short tunnel be fitted between those?
Here is a letter just sent to the Government by the Stonehenge Alliance:
THE STONEHENGE ALLIANCE
From the Chairman, George McDonic, MBE, BL, DIPLTP, FRTPI, DPA, FFB
To The Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin MP, Secretary of State for Transport
Sent by email on 3 October, 2014
Dear Secretary of State,
Proposals for the A303 at Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Alliance* is a group of non-Government organisations and individuals originally formed in 2001 which maintains a watch over any major new development that would adversely impact on the World Heritage Site (WHS). We are writing to request your intervention in the current process concerning proposed road improvements affecting the site.
The A303 is currently one of six identified road corridors subject to feasibility studies to examine possible improvements. It is most regrettable that this process has focused on road improvements rather than on considering more sustainable transport alternatives. We have grave concerns about the impacts that the proposed road options might have on the WHS.
Stonehenge is an iconic symbol of Britain’s past people and culture. It is a significant draw both nationally and internationally and important culturally and economically. Yet as important as the Stones are, it is their context, the surrounding landscape, which helps make them so special. This is recognised in the designation of the Stonehenge WHS which covers nearly 27 square kilometres. The importance of the surrounding landscape was highlighted in the recent BBC TV Operation Stonehenge series which identified numerous new sites in the wider WHS area.
At the last Corridor Feasibility Study Reference Group, a bored tunnel between 2.5 and 2.9km long as well as a northern trunk road diversion, were proposed for the A303 at Stonehenge for further investigation, while a request for a long bored tunnel of at least 4.5km to be costed was dismissed outright. All of the options now under consideration for the A303 at Stonehenge could inflict severe and irreversible damage upon the WHS and its setting and might well lead to the WHS being considered for the World Heritage in Danger List. A longer tunnel would avoid this.
The current approach appears to be pursuing options contrary to the National Planning Policy Framework and at odds with advice from UNESCO and, notably, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) in its Guidance on Heritage Impact Assessments for Cultural World Heritage Properties (2011).
We urge you to intervene in the study to ensure that a long bored tunnel of at least 4.5km (for which Highways Agency drawings were done c.2001) be examined and costed alongside the shorter tunnel option already put forward by the Corridor Feasibility Study Reference Group. There is real concern about the haste in which the study is being progressed and we request that greater time for consultation and engagement is taken in order to safeguard this iconic cultural asset.
I look forward to your reply.
George McDonic, Chairman, the Stonehenge Alliance
Copies to: Baroness Kramer, Minister of State for Transport,
Rt. Hon. John Hayes MP, Minister for Roads,
Julian Glover, Special Adviser,
Mary Creagh MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Transport,
Richard Burden MP, Shadow Minister for Roads,
John Glen, MP for Salisbury,
Claire Perry, MP for Devizes,
Sir Simon Jenkins, Chairman, The National Trust,
Dame Helen Ghosh, Director General,The National Trust,
Simon Thurley, Chief Executive, English Heritage,
Susan Denyer, Secretary, ICOMOS-UK,
Petya Totcharova, Head of Europe and North America Unit, UNESCO World Heritage Centre,
Dr Mike Heyworth, Director, Council for British Archaeology,
Alistair Sommerlad, Chairman, Stonehenge and Avebury WHS Partnership Panel
Submitted by a Correspondent:
THE SELFIE – A SHORT HISTORY
When in 1651, exactly 363 years ago yesterday, Charles II visited Stonehenge he didn’t do it to cross it off his “Bucket List”. Charles didn’t take advantage of any “photo opportunity” moment, indeed he would have shunned recognition. Nor did he arrive with a massive entourage, his servants preferred Salisbury Fair.
What changed between the visit of Charles and the visit of Barack Obama in 2014, is the selfie – everyone increasingly wanting to write themselves into the story. To borrow from one of the American President’s predecessors: it is not what the present can do for Stonehenge, but what the monument can do for the present. As well as the long past, it is surely time for visitors to be reminded to spare the monument’s future a thought…
Well OK it’s a false headline, she was actually fined €600 for stubbing out a cigarette on the pristine beach of Alghero in Sardinia but it reminded us that we hadn’t finished ranting about how we British allow Stonehenge to be disrespected. Compare and contrast her cigarette stub with this…..
How did we sleepwalk into a position where we tolerate treating our national icon in that way in full view of the rest of the world? On one day of the year only (no-one would dream of dropping a molecule of litter there on any of the other 364). There has to be a way to stop it and it’s clearly up to those who say they respect Stonehenge most to come up with a clear, practical proposal to achieve it. (Clue: numbers!)
Update 1 September 2014
EH has just announced the date for the next few Round Table meetings. Believe it or not there will be nine of them before next year’s summer solstice…..
Thu 2 October 2014
Thu 6 November 2014
Thu 4 December 2014
Thu 8 January 2015
Thu 5 February 2015
Thu 5 March 2015
Thu 2 April 2015
Thu 7 May 2015
Thu 4 June 2015
“Believe it or not” is an appropriate phrase because if they are like the ones held for the past decade they’ll only be concerned with minor matters or with endless, fruitless variations of “give us more access” followed by polite refusals (because agreeing to do so would conflict with EH’s statutory duty to protect). Not one of them, probably, will be concerned with the one thing that’s needed: restricting numbers so that adequate control can be maintained.
In answer to an enquiry from a user of The Modern Antiquarian forum English Heritage have made their position on climbing onto the stones at Stonehenge crystal clear. They point out they have no choice or discretion about not allowing people to touch the stones as they are “bound by the monument’s own government regulations under which the monument is protected” and that touching the stones is “a contravention of the regulations” and crucially, that the situation applies at all times without exception: “These regulations are still in place during the managed open access of the Solstices and Equinoxes”….“The law is clear: it is illegal to touch the stones and those who do so are committing a criminal offence”.
As everyone knows though, at summer solstice when tens of thousands are crowded inside the circle English Heritage is simply unable to prevent scores of people clambering on the stones, as is always shown the next day in the world’s press. Some argue that the law is an ass and that touching is no big deal. On the other hand we heard recently that damage had been done at every one of a run of ten successive summer solstice gatherings. No doubt EH will clarify if that’s wrong.
There is probably only one long term solution, which is to limit the number of people inside the circle (although in the meantime it might be good for EH to grumble about the stone-clamberers the next day rather than announce everything went very well!). It’s all about restricting the number of people inside the circle to a manageable (and also a financially affordable) amount, and allowing everyone else to celebrate near but outside the circle.
But that in itself is a problem. While a lot of those who are truly devoted to Stonehenge – some Druids, pagans and others – might well be persuaded to support such a move what about the less committed – the thousands of one-off, slightly tipsy party-goers? Would they behave or would they see it as a return of Mrs Thatcher and insist on their “right” to go inside the stones to see the sunrise?
Who knows? It’s rather up to the committed people, the Druids, pagans and others to take a lead in proposing a “limited access” solution rather than endlessly banging on about “free and open access” which is quite clearly an impractical notion. It would certainly beat endless bellyaching about how badly EH runs the place and how hard done by they all are – and those of us who have to foot the enormous annual bill for the current shindig would be grateful too!
Incidentally, this year’s event was a right old shambles – see the latest Round Table debrief – including 3 lots of damage:
Curator of stones reported that someone has used a resin to draw a couple of numbers on the stones which is proving very difficult to remove. We need to focus on people doing this. Also in the last hour or so,chalk drawings were made on the stones. Lots of candle-wax, but even more worrying that people were sticking chewing gum on the stones. Also excrement and effluence in the stones area.
The Government’s Autumn statement will take place in early December. It will contain the results of the current feasibility study into ways in which congestion on the A303, including the section around Stonehenge, can be eased. It appears that there is a real determination to resolve the issue – perhaps because it has been calculated that many votes will be lost by not doing so – and it can therefore be anticipated that unlike previous studies this one will be speedily acted upon.
Hence it’s likely that a tunnel is well and truly back on the agenda and could actually be built, not just talked about. So will it be the “short tunnel” rather than a long one? It’s a fair bet it will be for if the question was “will it be an expensive or less expensive one” no-one would be in any doubt about the answer. Yet no clues are being given. Indeed, English Heritage who are pushing for a tunnel “with all our strength” won’t tell us which tunnel they favour.
We’ve been repeatedly banging on about this for some time – see here – but at the risk of repeating ourselves ad nauseam and for the avoidance of all possible doubt, a short tunnel will be massively damaging – so said not us but almost every archaeological and heritage organisation the last time it was proposed. It would be nice if they all started banging on about it NOW, and didn’t wait until December when the die is cast and the chances of changing anything will have all but disappeared.
Oh, and just in case the subject should suddenly be on everyone’s lips in early December (as we have a sinking feeling it may be) a tunnel that is slightly longer than a short one is still a short one, and is still massively damaging…..!
English Heritage have just bought three buses to supplement the land trains at Stonehenge which have proved highly problematical and inadequate. Hopefully this will solve at a stroke many of the difficulties that have marred the opening six months of the new visitor experience. Like all human beings we really, really hate to say we told you so but we have to say – we told you so! Here’s the Heritage Journal, 25th April 2010, commenting on a Wiltshire Council Strategic Planning Department document on “a proposed land train between the new visitor centre and the stones”:
So why not just use buses? These days there are as many environment-friendly innovations applying to them as to land trains – electric, hybrid, low-impact, you name it. And in addition, they are arguably just as or more flexible, inexpensive, safe, weatherproof, robust, long-lasting, reliable and easy to load – and they have a pretty small turning circle (hence require only a small footprint near the stones). Half a dozen of those and the job could be done – with no expensive, exclusive maintenance agreements with manufacturers, no equally expensive “custom built” elements – and let’s face it, buses are rather well-tested technology so they’d definitely give a high degree of reliability.