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Proposed Stonehenge road scheme will compromise ancient monument’s setting and sacred precinct
In an unprecedented move, 21 experts on Stonehenge have joined together in their objection to the A303 tunnel scheme proposed by Highways England. The group comprises senior archaeologists, among them 12 professors, who have carried out internationally recognised research within the Stonehenge World Heritage Site (WHS) within the last ten years or more.
The group welcomes schemes to improve the setting of Stonehenge and associated monuments, but feels strongly that the short tunnel scheme (of 2.9km) places important archaeological remains at undue risk, and impacts on the integrity of the WHS. The group’s principal objections are that:
- The creation of new sections of dual carriageway and slip roads beyond the tunnel but still within the boundary of the WHS would set a dangerous precedent by allowing large-scale destructive development within a WHS, potentially threatening its status and integrity.
- The construction of the western tunnel portal and new sections of road would destroy part of a sacred precinct created around Stonehenge and the Normanton Down barrow group 3500 years ago. This massive enclosure, originally comprising ditches, banks and palisades (known as the Stonehenge Palisade) is an integral part of Stonehenge’s sacred landscape. Furthermore, the westerly section of new road would run through an area with an unusual and nationally important concentration of long barrows (burial monuments) belonging to the millennium prior to Stonehenge.
- The proposed siting of the western tunnel portal and its approach road will generate light pollution that would impact on the key midwinter sunset alignment from Stonehenge.
- At its eastern end, construction of the tunnel portal here may have an effect on groundwater conditions which could detrimentally impact the survival of nationally important Mesolithic remains at Blick Mead.
- There has been no effective consultation with the expert group, who between them have unprecedented knowledge of the prehistoric landscape of the WHS.
The iconic status of Stonehenge and international importance of associated archaeological remains within its landscape demand that a scheme is devised which offers the highest standard in heritage protection. The group requests that other options be given further consideration, including the creation of a longer tunnel or a southern surface loop that avoids the WHS.