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Please read this.
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It says excavation = learning. Therefore excavating a large swathe of the Stonehenge landscape of all places for a road, against UNESCO’s wishes, should be welcomed.
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We are only amateurs but we profoundly disagree. It seems to us to be a worryingly damaging stance.

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But …..
In December they spooked local villagers by concocting and publishing an embarrassingly inappropriate peak-time traffic relief route directing all the A303 traffic straight through a small local community and announcing it in an apparently innocent, chirpy fashion:Stuck in traffic on the A303 Stonehenge? Our planned upgrades will ease congestion, making journeys faster and more reliable(and they had to apologise within days) ….

Then in June, just before the solstice celebrations, we had “Delays expected on A303 ahead of Summer Solstice/Highways England is warning drivers of the risk of potential delays/ Congestion can be expected/a 40mph speed limit will be in place on the A303 between the Countess roundabout and Longbarrow roundabout/ lay-bys closed/ dual carriageway between Countess roundabout and Stonehenge Cottages will be reduced to a single lane” … and so on.

….. and now, days after their preferred route has been confirmed AND with their fiirst”drop in” session about it starting today, we have “Misery for motorists as stretch of the A303 closes for weekend” ….. The closure’s expected to have an impact on traffic in Durrington, Tidworth and Ludgershall. Amesbury, Salisbury, and Andover are also likely to be affected. It’s expected to have even more of an impact due to the existing roadworks in Larkhill and Durrington.”

Can you believe it?  130 Tasmanian Aboriginal relics have been seized after a tip off that they were being offered for sale. Under the Tasmanian Aboriginal Heritage Act, it is an offence to destroy, conceal, remove or sell Aboriginal relics and the maximum penalty is $795,000.

Compare and contrast the (maybe) 300 mostly legally acquired but unreported British relics held on average by each of 24,000 British relic hunters. Clearly, whatever concerns exist about cultural damage due to the digging up of 130 Aboriginal relics in Australia, the damage is utterly inconsequential compared with Britain where the number of cultural losses is demonstrably more than 50,000 times greater.

But here in Britain we don’t legislate. We ingratiate. It’s the best way, don’tcha know!

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In a recent survey this view from the brow of a hill  on the A303 outside Amesbury was voted the third best in Britain. Some believe it’s THE best.

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tunnel

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Countless travellers have enjoyed it for millennia for free – so it could be said to be “forever, for everyone”, or ought to be. It is as much a part of our shared heritage as the monument itself and consequently must be just as deserving of protection. Yet now there are plans to obliterate it.

What sort of country does that to it’s own heritage? None to our knowledge. And how can it be justified? As to that, it’s significant that Historic England, English Heritage, The National Trust and the Government haven’t even tried! This project is by no means a foregone conclusion so please let the National Trust know their stance is in direct contravention of their founding principles and sign the Stonehenge Alliance petition here.

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PS: here’s Simon Jenkins, ex National Trust Chairman:

I love this view, as I do the distant sight of Lindisfarne or Arundel or Dover. Motorists are as entitled as paying visitors to delight in the English landscape.

Damage to the landscape and a risk of loss of World Heritage status are not the only consequence of Britain’s main heritage bodies defying UNESCO’s advice at Stonehenge. There could be wider consequences arising from their effective message that your judgements are valid if YOU alone believe they are!

Didn’t Shropshire Council take exactly that line when it voted to damage the setting of Oswestry Hill Fort? And haven’t Pegasus Group said much the same over destroying a Jacobean ceiling in Bristol: “Pegasus Group are ….. content that the works needed to be carried out to respect the safety of the building, and were done so lawfully in association with ongoing refurbishment works, irrespective of the outcome of the submitted planning application.”

English Heritage weren’t coy about seeing the Shropshire decision as regrettable and Historic England were equally upset about not being consulted at Bristol: “Had we been able to continue with our planned inspection of the building, before the ceiling was deliberately removed, we could have had constructive discussions with the owner about managing changes to the building in a way that respected its remaining historic features.”

But irony of ironies, both those organisations are blatantly ignoring UNESCO’s views at Stonehenge! How far will the ripples from that travel? Who in future will feel obliged to listen to either of them if it’s feared their advice would be inconvenient and they have already indicated that your judgements are valid providing YOU alone believe they are and it’s perfectly acceptable to ignore superior advice?

 

The Government has today announced it supports an amended short tunnel (see details here). Historic England, English Heritage and The National Trust, who have faithfully supported a short tunnel from the start, have reacted precisely as expected – with tricky words intended to cover their shame:

“It is now critical to ensure that the benefits of this new route can be realised through careful design and mitigation of archaeological risks”.

Note, no more pretence that the route would do no harm if carefully designed.  There must be “mitigation of archaeological risks” which, with the route now decided, actually means mitigation of actual damage.

Our three main heritage bodies can no longer hide behind ifs and buts: they are openly supporting massive new damage to the World Heritage Site in defiance of UNESCO’s wishes.

Update:
Meanwhile, Tony Robinson puts the whole scheme in a nutshell (and consequently  highlights the awfulness of the HE, EH, NT posturing):

The Scheme is “The most brutal intrusion into the Stone Age landscape ever….. Archaeologists have understood over the last 10 to 15 years that Stonehenge isn’t a monument, Stonehenge is a landscape. Unesco understood that, which is why they made the area into the World Heritage Site. What’s happened is that the Department for Transport is literally driving a thousand coaches and horses through the World Heritage Site ……. It’s an absolute disgrace.”

Bravo. The stone cold truth.

 

Back in 2015 we suggested detectorists should stump up some cash to help PAS as it’s PAS that has kept them in existence, and a mere £3 a week each would provide thirty new FLOs. As we said at the time, PAS is entitled to expect that detectorists, whose bacon they and the taxpayer have saved for so many years, would promptly respond.

PAS did indeed ask for donations. Trouble is, after 2 years, the total raised is only £981.53 from a derisory 25 donors (one of whom was the CBA and another of whom was us!). Dr Sam Hardy reckons there are nearly 24,000 active detectorists which means detectorists are supporting PAS not at the rate of £3 per week each but at the rate of £0.0004 per week each – whereas most commercial detecting rallies cost £40 per week each (100,000 times more!)

Maybe it’s time PAS stopped pretending the majority of detectorists are their “partners” and stopped organising conferences to give that impression? Instead, shouldn’t they be telling the Government that what the vast majority of them are doing is seeking for their own benefit alone and the whole activity urgently needs regulating by Parliament. As a FLO tweeted a while back: “Today detectorist told me generally detectorists in the area don’t trust PAS/BM because they get nothing back….. Totally sick of hearing this“. So are we.

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Are you one of the 30,000 members of the Royal Oak Foundation, the organisation for Americans supporting Britain’s National Trust? If so, you’ll be paying somewhere between $65 and $10,000, depending on your status, and your Foundation has so far given the National Trust $7.5 million. You are then entitled to voice your opinion on how the National Trust goes about its business.
A resolution has been tabled at the National Trust’s AGM next month, asking the Board of Trustees to stop supporting the British Government’s intention to drive a new surface highway over part of the Stonehenge world-protected landscape. It asks the Board of Trustees to simply stick to their founding principles and to respect the fact that the World Heritage Site is of Outstanding Universal Value.
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If you object to President Trump’s attempts to weaken the protection enjoyed by US National Parks such as Bears Ears you’ll hopefully agree that if the British want a new road they must find a way to build one without causing major new damage to America’s and the World’s heritage – and the Trust shouldn’t be saying otherwise in your name. Please make your views known to the Trust. If possible please do in addition inform someone you know who will be attending the AGM – to ensure a proper hearing!

 

 

“Be sure your sins will find you out, especially if you’re married and her name’s Bertha.” [D H Lawrence]

Maybe some at The National Trust have been reflecting on those words lately. Their  “Bertha” is their commitment to the mantra “forever, for everyone” and their “sins” are that nevertheless they have supported trail hunting and the Stonehenge short tunnel. It’s long been obvious those two positions are untenable and now, after years of blatant dodging and diving, the Board has  finally agreed to allow Members to vote on both at the pending AGM.

Predictably the Board is asking Members to vote against both Resolutions! However, they don’t really explain why. No wonder, for in the case of the Resolution on Stonehenge the Trust is merely being called upon to:
1. Reaffirm its founding purpose to protect special places
2. Respect World Heritage Convention obligations
3. Recognise that major damage in a WHS can’t be justified by citing benefits
4. Accept (without further pretence) that the WHS has been designated as of outstanding universal value to mankind so it is not for Britain to unilaterally shrink the protected area.

As for that last point, the fact it is not for Britain alone to shrink the protected area, it’s significant that The Trust uses 550 words to tell Members to vote against the Resolution and yet manages to make zero reference to the important news that UNESCO has recently come out firmly against the short tunnel. That should tell you all you need to know about what’s happening.

As previously reported, a massive head of steam is building up against the Trust’s willingness to allow hunting on its land and as a result a Members’ Resolution has been tabled at next month’s AGM proposing a complete ban!

Oh so predictably, the Trust is urging members to vote against and to go instead for a watered-down reform. It says it believes it should be “generous in providing access to the fullest range of supporters”. A case of “forever, for everyone” providing the everyone is a powerful pro-hunting minority of members perhaps! We prefer Dr Brian May’s forthright summation: surely they should be protecting our wild animals “rather than protecting the scummy people who take pleasure in persecuting them ?

Anyway, to describe the AGM as “historic” would be no exaggeration because there’s a good chance the Trust will lose the hunting vote and thus be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the twenty first century and become aligned with the views of the vast majority of the public.  Its reputation and finances could only benefit.

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