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Over the last two days the Heritage Journal has responded in detail to Sir Tim Laurence’s article in the Telegraph (£) about the A303 Stonehenge tunnel scheme. As Chairman of English Heritage, Sir Tim Laurence would have ‘preferred a longer tunnel’, but the Government has decided it is ‘not affordable’ and he had this to say of the short tunnel scheme English Heritage and other heritage bodies support:

‘Will there be “considerable harm to landscape character and visual amenity” in the WHS as the Planning Inspectorate’s report into the project asserted? Here I take issue with an otherwise fair and balanced report.

It seems to me that overall there will be huge net benefits to the major part of the landscape, albeit at the expense of intrusion at either end.’


UNESCO has stated the very opposite and Stonehenge is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The UNESCO World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS’ Final Report on the joint advisory mission to Stonehenge in 2018 states:

‘…the construction of four-lane highways in cuttings at either end of the tunnel would adversely and irreversibly impact on the integrity, authenticity and Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the WHS, particularly through disrupting the spatial and visual links between monuments, and as a result of its overall visual impact.’

There we have it – UNESCO disagrees with English Heritage, the National Trust, this Government and its chief employees at Historic England and Highways England. In short, the road should not be removed from National Trust land alone if damage is to be incurred either side within the World Heritage Site.

In persisting with support for the short tunnel English Heritage has constructed a garden path at Stonehenge for the unknowing to be led up. If the charity isn’t prepared to care for the World Heritage Site as UNESCO demands and in line with the government’s obligations under the World Heritage Convention, then perhaps it is time for Stonehenge to be no longer managed by English Heritage.


December 2020

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