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My true love gave to me:

Two turtle doves.

Muir of Ord henge, now a golf course.

No turtle doves here, but you could score a birdie (or two)! Muir of Ord henge in the Scottish Highlands has been incorporated into the local golf course.

…my true love gave to me:

A partridge in a pear tree

Goldherring courtyard settlement, Cornwall

Admittedly it’s not a pear tree, and there are no partridges to be seen, but if you visit this courtyard house settlement at Goldherring in Cornwall in the spring, you may well hear skylarks and cuckoos.

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23 December 2020

Campaigners have issued a legal claim in their fight to halt the major A303 road project that would carve deep cuttings to a tunnel within the Stonehenge World Heritage Site (WHS).

Save Stonehenge World Heritage Site (SSWHS) has applied for judicial review of Transport Secretary Grant Shapps’ decision to grant development consent to the eight-mile project that includes a two-mile tunnel past Stonehenge, with cuttings and tunnel entrances within the WHS.

pre-action letter sent by Leigh Day solicitors on behalf of SSWHS did not receive a satisfactory response, and so a claim for judicial review was filed on December 22 before the December 24 deadline.

Permission for the A303 scheme was granted against the advice of a five-person panel of expert inspectors, the Examining Authority (ExA), who said the hugely controversial project would permanently harm the integrity of the WHS and seriously harm its authenticity. It will be argued that the scheme is contrary to the Wiltshire Core Strategy and the requirements of the World Heritage Convention.

The Stonehenge site, together with Avebury, was declared by UNESCO to be a WHS of Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) in 1986 on account of the sheer size of their megaliths, the sophistication of their concentric plans and their complexes of Neolithic and Bronze Age sites and monuments.

The prehistoric monuments and sites preserved within the WHS form landscapes without parallel, says UNESCO.

SSWHS says Mr Shapps’ decision to allow the road tunnel to be built alongside the site, with the tunnel entrance within, is unlawful. It makes its case on the following grounds:

  • Harm to each heritage asset within the road project should have been weighed in the balance, instead of considering the “historic environment” as a whole
  • The advice provided by Historic England did not provide the evidential basis for the Secretary of State’s conclusion of “less than substantial harm” to any of the assets impacted by the project. His disagreeing with the advice of the ExA was therefore unlawful
  • The Secretary of State allowed purported “heritage benefits” to be weighed against heritage harm, before deciding whether that overall harm was “substantial” or “less than substantial”, which was unlawful under the NPS: the primary policy test that the Secretary of State must use when making decisions for nationally significant infrastructure projects. The Secretary of State also double-counted what he considered to be the “heritage benefits”
  • The Secretary of State failed to consider whether a grant of development consent (which would, even on his own conclusions, cause harm to the OUV of the WHS) would amount to a breach of international obligations under the World Heritage Convention
  • The Secretary of State left out of account mandatory material considerations: the breach of various local policies; the impact of his finding of heritage harm which undermined the business case for the proposal and the existence of at least one alternative, namely a longer tunnel with less impact on the heritage assets

Tom Holland, president of the Stonehenge Alliance whose supporters set up SSWHS to take forward the legal action, said: 

Bearing in mind the weight of opposition to the Government’s plans for a highly intrusive road scheme through the Stonehenge landscape, it is hard to believe that the Transport Secretary has given them the green light. The Planning Inspectorate, after a painstaking, six-month investigation, advised against them. So too, appalled by the damage the Government’s plans would inflict on a World Heritage Site, did UNESCO. How the public feel can be gauged by the fact that over £46,000 has been raised to take the Government to court over the plans in only a few weeks. Let us hope that the law can come to the rescue of a landscape that ranks as our most precious and sacred.” 

Leigh Day solicitor Rowan Smith said:

“Our client strongly believes that the Secretary of State’s approach to assessing the harm caused by this road scheme to the heritage assets in the Stonehenge area was unlawful, because he underestimated the overall impact by averaging it out and offsetting the purported benefits before appreciating the true extent of the damage. Our client will argue that, in doing so, the Secretary of State failed to follow national policy and breached international law under the World Heritage Convention.”

Campaigners are fundraising for their legal action and by December 22 had raised £46,746.

Setting out to “reveal the facts behind some of the most common myths and misconceptions about the A303 Stonehenge scheme” Highways England have been making fudge.

Fudge #1 – The tunnel is going under the Stonehenge 

“This is just not true”, says Highways England, conveniently overlooking that Stonehenge is a 5.6 km wide UNESCO World Heritage Site and the proposed A303 tunnel within it is only 3km long.

Fudge #2 – “You’ll not be seeing bulldozers at Stonehenge”, says Highways England.

Only then to state: “the only equipment (above ground) in the World Heritage Site will be at the tunnel entrances and cuttings” – so we will be seeing bulldozers at Stonehenge!

Fudge #3 – Stonehenge will be damaged during construction

“Again – not true”, says Highways England, conveniently overlooking a wide deep 1km long cutting to be excavated through a Beaker cemetery and remains of an Early Bronze Age settlement within the Stonehenge World Heritage Site.

Fudge #4 – We’ll lose the free view of Stonehenge 

“If you’re a driver, this is true,” says Highways England. Big of them. Passengers as well as drivers of upwards of 24,000 vehicles a day will lose the experience of encountering the free view of Stonehenge from the A303 forever.

Fudge #5 – The traffic is caused by people slowing down to look at the stones (just put a fence up instead)

“A fence wouldn’t solve this and would damage those things that make the World Heritage Site special – creating a barrier, something we are trying to remove by placing the A303 in a 2-mile tunnel”, says Highways England.

Of all the fudged claims made by Highways England this is surely a contender for a prize – so a fence “would damage those things that make the World Heritage Site special – creating a barrier” but a tunnel and attached cuttings totalling 4.5km in a 5.6km wide World Heritage Site isn’t creating a barrier and damaging what makes this place special?

Having featured the Highways England video posted on social media 16 December 2020, advice for SMEs (small and medium-sized business enterprises) which momentarily included some small print in the top left corner, the Heritage Journal have been informed that Highways England posted an almost identical video on social media 17 December 2020 that no longer included this small print:

‘Filmed before COVID restrictions’.

At the beginning of December it was reported that 75% of SMEs have endured a negative impact from the pandemic in 2020, tens of thousands of jobs are at risk and the UK is predicted to emerge from the pandemic in ‘one of the worst global positions.’

In view of which what are Highways England playing at?

Highways England’s A303 Stonehenge Community posted a 20 second video on social media 16 December 2020, featuring advice from a supplier to a road scheme in another part of the country, which in addition to sound was spelled out in large print:

The main advice I would give to SMEs [small and medium-sized business enterprises] that are looking to work on projects such as these is don’t be shy. Be brave, be bold, if you genuinely believe that you’ve got the capability to support projects and deliver on these projects, go for it. 

If spotted – fading in after 2 seconds then disappearing by 6 seconds – some small print momentarily appeared in the top left corner of the video as seen in the accompanying screenshot:

‘Filmed before COVID restrictions’.

So this interview was filmed before it was revealed that the independent Planning Inspectorate had recommended refusal of the A303 Stonehenge (Amesbury to Berwick Down) tunnel scheme.

The interview was filmed before it was announced that legal advice was being sought on a potential challenge to the Secretary of State for Transport’s decision to ignore the findings of 5 senior planning inspectors.

It was filmed before active protests in opposition to the decision to proceed with the tunnel were launched in the Stonehenge landscape.

In view of the above, has Highways England provided the supplier in the video with an update then courteously asked permission before posting the footage in these very different times?

SKY NEWS: “Jupiter and Saturn to create first visible ‘Christmas star’ in 800 years”

As we recently predicted, English Heritage’s press release about the Winter Solstice contains not a single word about the rare conjunction of the two giant planets, Jupiter and Saturn, the closest since 1226. Tonight they will live stream the pre-solstice sunset from Stonehenge (and then the post-solstice sunrise on Monday morning) but are saying nothing about the conjunction which will be visible less than half an hour after tonight’s sunset.

Every news outlet is highlighting the conjunction which makes English Heritage’s silence about it look deeply peculiar. What possible explanation could there be, other than shame for the fact they’re supporting a tunnel which will soon remove both spectacles from travellers passing Stonehenge, not for a year, not for a decade, but forever?

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Please contribute whatever you can to the fighting fund against this state-sponsored assault upon World culture which is opposed by UNESCO.


 

A French metal detectorist has been accused of looting on a vast scale in France and Flanders after police found a haul of 27,400 valuable objects at his home..

France’s Economy Minister, Bruno Le Maire commenting on the fact imprisonment was likely, said: “This is a clear message to those who, for the benefit and selfish pleasure of a few, rob us of our common heritage and erase entire swaths of our history.”

But only 27,400 valuable objects Monsieur? When it comes to stealing cultural knowledge we Rosbifs can do better than that. We think nearly 250 times more than that, 7 million recordable objects, haven’t been reported to PAS by detectorists (including hundreds from France and Belgium, here for out “rallies”) since PAS was created. How’s that for “erasing entire swaths of our history”?!

Est-il possible que vous puissiez empêcher vos moins talentueux de venir ici pour nous voler notre héritage commun? (Nous regrettons le Brexit mais 90% de nos détecteurs l’ont voté).

[Any chance you could stop your least talented from coming over here to “rob us of our common heritage”? We apologise for Brexit by the way. 90% of our detectorists voted for it.]

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting
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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.’

Whereas:

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.

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