Everyone’s been on tenterhooks. How will they possibly justify the damage rather than just enthusing about the upside? Well, they seem to have made a start. Historic England have just published Advice Note 2 – Making Changes to Heritage Assets and at first glance it seems to absolutely preclude a short tunnel (“a small minority of landscapes will be so sensitive that the degree of alteration or addition without loss of significance may be very limited, particularly where there is a consistently high level of archaeological interest or architectural consistency”.)
But then comes the escape clause: “Works other than those of a minor nature are likely to be acceptable only where they would be in the best long-term interests of the conservation of the remains or there are other important planning justifications.” It says, doesn’t it, that if the Government wants it badly enough then that’s “an important planning justification” so it’s agents (and the hapless National Trust) will support it.
We should have all known. Doing something tantamount to driving a motorway through the Valley of the Kings could only be carried off by dint of a preposterous new rule – an 11th conservation commandment which decrees that you needn’t be bound by the other ten – and that’s exactly what Historic England appears to have done. One hopes UNESCO and ICOMOS have noticed that the carving of the Stonehenge landscape, if it happens, will be a carve up.