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As Chairman of English Heritage, Sir Tim Laurence can never be anything but a distinguished visitor at Stonehenge. In guiding this distinguished visitor around the Stonehenge World Heritage Site, English Heritage appears to have been highly selective with their information, since Sir Tim Laurence’s statements about the A303 tunnel scheme in the Telegraph (£) require a better-informed response.

The headline of Sir Tim Laurence’s article states:

‘Removing the noisy, polluting traffic from the site will return it to the peace of its ancient origins.’

Whereas:

The proposed works would not remove noisy polluting traffic from the WHS, they would add to it on the A303 as well as increasing the number of noisy polluting buses at English Heritage’s bus terminus near the Stones – hardly returning the site to ‘the peace of its ancient origins’!

Sir Tim Laurence states:

‘We want to make sure that the route is fully surveyed and avoids any significant features.’

Whereas:

The road scheme proposes wide and deep cuttings routed through the remains of an Early Bronze Age settlement and prehistoric cemeteries – all within the World Heritage Site.

Sir Tim Laurence states:

‘Anything of significance will be recovered; anything of interest will be recorded and photographed.’

Whereas:

Highways England has recently excavated and removed the contents of a number of graves from a Beaker cemetery that lies on the route of the tunnel’s western cutting within the World Heritage Site, but their locus and those of other graves in the Expressway’s path will vanish.  These and other places and sites of interest where significant things happened in prehistory will no longer exist within the World Heritage Site if the road scheme goes ahead.

Sir Tim Laurence states:

‘A scientific panel has been established, comprising archaeologists of all persuasions, to hold Highways England’s feet to the fire.’

Whereas: A scientific panel has been established, but Highways England chose its membership having first requested a list of recommendations from those with a vested interest: so not just the independent voice UNESCO recommended. Freedom of Information requests have revealed that tunnel supporters were targeted to join this panel, whereas no one from the Blick Mead project team received an invitation; and among those not originally invited to participate included a widely respected former English Heritage archaeologist who opposes the short tunnel.

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