Following the point we raised yesterday that English Heritage and the National Trust have no business lobbying for a short tunnel at this early stage, before the Government has clarified some crucial questions, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon provided a statement in the Lords that absolutely hammers home the point:
“Highways England is currently in the early stage of scheme development looking at options and to date have not sought the advice of the National Committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites.”
“The Road Investment Strategy is clear that the A303 Amesbury to Berwick Down scheme involves a tunnel of at least 1.8 miles (2.9 kilometres). Highways England is in the early stage of scheme development, looking at options, including the length of tunnel. Consultation on options will take place in 2017 and will involve stakeholders, local residents, businesses, road users and interested parties.”
Against that background, for EH and NT to be seen to be supporting the shortest of the possible tunnel lengths still being considered by Highway’s England, seems bizarre. If the tunnel length is still under consideration shouldn’t they, as heritage-friendly bodies, be campaigning really hard at this stage for the longest option not the shortest, since that inarguably would involve no damage to the World Heritage Site? But the National Trust’s archaeologist has written this in the latest edition of Wiltshire Life:
Actually, if you want to inflict zero damage on the World Heritage Site, length IS everything, there can be no argument about that. Instead, it seems as if the National Trust is proclaiming to the public that it supports the “the longest tunnel possible” but is actually arguing for a shorter one that emerges well inside the World Heritage Site, with all the damage that implies. Given the nature and historic role of the National Trust, that in itself is surprising, but coming at such an early stage such a stance seems astonishing.