The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has resurrected the idea that the UNESCO World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS (International) mission to Stonehenge just over a year ago was relaxed about a short tunnel by saying: None of the previous mission’s recommendations suggest that the WHS site status is at risk”. 

A somewhat misleading assertion, for the mission said on page 9 of its report: “…. the siting and design of the tunnel portals, approach cuttings/embankments, entry/exit ramps and the temporary construction works have the potential to impact adversely impact on OUV. These latter aspects of the scheme, in particular, will require rigorous investigation, evaluation, iterative design and assessment to see whether and how it might be possible to protect the attributes of OUV within the World Heritage site and protect the surrounding Archaeological Priority Area (APA).”

Furthermore, ICOMOS-UK, two years ago, informed Government Ministers thatwe are concerned that associated portals and dual carriageways could have a highly adverse impact on other parts of the World Heritage landscape that cannot be set aside, however great the benefits of a tunnel.

The DCMS also goes on to imply that talking to the UNESCO mission can meet any concerns they have. That’s pretty rich in view of the fact Highways England’s preliminary planning for the tunnel scheme didn’t include any consultation with ICOMOS-UK. Nevertheless, we trust that ICOMOS International will come to the same conclusion as ICOMOS-UK if/when tunnel proposals are finally on the table.