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The Examination has closed. The Examining Authority is preparing its recommendations. Now is the time to define exactly what’s at stake. The line of the road is now unlikely to be changed so whatever archaeology is revealed during the current trial pits will be lost and preserved only “by record”. That’s often reasonable, for without preservation by record nothing could ever be built. But in a World Heritage landscape? The clue’s in the name. Isn’t true preservation owed here – else our promise to the world is broken.

There are loads of examples of true preservation in the World Heritage Site. Woodhenge, The Sanctuary and the Stonehenge mesolithic posts are marked on the surface with posts or slabs and visited by millions, but are still truly preserved underground and available for future research. Here’s Woodhenge:

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and here’s another, yet-to-be discovered, unfortunately positioned, possible Woodhenge. Let’s call it Unluckyhenge ….

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and here’s how Highways England will protect Unluckyhenge and all the other unlucky archaeology that lies in the way of the new road ….

That, in essence, is the issue. Should Britain tell the world “preservation by record” is justified in a World Heritage Site, in order to deliver the cheapest version of the vote-catching policy of a Prime Minister-but-two ago? Let’s hope the Examining Authority says no.

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