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The Journal has been around quite a while and one of the advantages of that is that we can look at our archives and find things which EH, NT et al, those who are trying to say (and DO say) that UNESCO/ICOMOS think a short tunnel would be spiffing, would rather everyone would forget.
Here’s a beauty from exactly 11 years ago, in July 2005:
"Heritage Action welcomes the news that the A303 improvement scheme that threatened the loss of archaeology and further intrusion into the surroundings of Stonehenge has been withdrawn. ICOMOS, the International Council on Monuments and Sites, has also welcomed the news. They say: "We believe that the review announced by the Minister allows time for serious consideration to be given to alternative schemes for upgrading the A303 that do not involve cutting across the heart of the World Heritage Site".
Some say EH should have tackled solstice overcrowding long ago. Still, this year they finally did, imposing both a parking charge and an alcohol ban. It seems to have produced less overcrowding and less misbehaviour. Might they conclude that decisive management works better than endless negotiations?
Our friend spent the last year on the Open Access to Stonehenge Facebook Group, calling for a fresh start and a letter to EH saying: “We recognise that the welfare and dignity of the monument is paramount. We would like to enter into discussions to optimise access on the above bases.” Sadly (with a few exceptions) this was greeted with hostility (and accusations he was an EH or police spy!) and he was summarily ejected. It’s to be hoped that in future EH will only discuss Stonehenge access with people who accept that the interests of Stonehenge always, always outrank their own!
A range of leading naturalists plus the former heads of Natural England, English Nature, the RSPB and the National Trust have issued grave warnings about the potential effect of Brexit on Britain’s countryside. We’re highlighting their letter here because the bulk of archaeological protection is closely linked to environmental protection measures (and mainly financed by European money) and therefore of equal concern. Telling excerpts from their letter include the following:
- “Far from being ‘red tape’, the rules and regulations coming out of Brussels have been “critical” to improving the quality of Britain’s water, air and natural environment”
- “It’s vital to recognise that virtually the entire legal protection for our environment here in Britain derives from European safeguards”
- “UK politics has a tendency to be short term and see the natural environment as an impediment to economic growth, and EU agreements help mitigate this by encouraging us to be more long term in our public policy.”
- “If the UK were to pull out of the EU the Government would be under huge pressure from industry to water down environmental protections in areas like energy efficiency to help the UK to become more competitive against our former European partners.”
- Our air, water and land are kept clean by European laws. And rightly so, because pollution knows no national boundaries. We ignore these protections at our peril.”
So, EH, HE, NT and CBA are all willing to support new damage to Stonehenge and to imply UNESCO and ICOMOS support a short tunnel when they’ve said no such thing.
However, the biscuit is most certainly taken by the latest edition of British Archaeology which states that ICOMOS essentially approves the short tunnel “subject to details of portals and cuttings”. As we stressed previously, the truth is that ICOMOS has major concerns about the position of both ends of the tunnel so that absolutely, categorically can’t be taken as evidence that it essentially approves of the proposed length of the tunnel, quite the reverse. In addition, saying that it sees the position of those ends as mere “details” is equally misleading. They are crucial and ICOMOS has most definitely not signaled it thinks otherwise.
We have three questions-cum-accusations for EH, HE, NT, CBA and British Archaeology. 1.) If the short tunnel is such a benefit for Stonehenge how come you weren’t all calling for it until the Government decided it wanted it? 2.) And what was it that convinced you? Have you all, like CBA, “revisited earlier documents”? 3.) If so, that’s fine, but can you please tell the public precisely what you found in them to cause you to change your opinions? Where, in any of the earlier documents or indeed in the current ones published by ICOMOS or UNESCO have you found justification for your support for imposing the following scene on Britain’s and Europe’s leading prehistoric World Heritage Site? Precisely, chapter and verse please.