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Andy Heaton who has led a tireless fight against damage to Offa’s Dyke , today offers his thoughts on the “short tunnel” at Stonehenge. In particular, he points out what the short tunnel lobby doesn’t: even a ‘long’ tunnel of 3 miles under Stonehenge would still be 15 miles shorter than the 18 mile one now being planned to run under the Peak District!
A couple of weeks ago in the Guardian, there was an article outlining how the government intends to set in motion plans for a high-speed railway line from Manchester to Leeds and an 18 mile underground road tunnel beneath the Peak District. The predicted cost of all this is £6bn . . . . . . . but government projects are never within budget, so it’ll cost at least double that amount. Oh yes, by comparison with the example above, perhaps the ‘long’ tunnel that has been suggested for Stonehenge, should be renamed as the ‘modest’ tunnel ? A ‘long’ tunnel of 3 miles under Stonehenge, would still be 15 miles shorter than the ‘long’ tunnel under the Peak District. Perhaps they measure things differently in Wiltshire? Perhaps Stonehenge should be relocated to the Peak District and placed atop the new 18 mile tunnel?
The problem with a tunnel is that a couple of miles of brand new, four-lane highway would have to be bulldozed through the World Heritage Site. Outside the tunnel, the World Heritage Site would be split in two, by a noisy and unsightly dual carriageway (four-lane highway). It would need to be securely fenced and with long cuttings leading down to tunnel entrances. Oh yes, it would need to have a high level of lighting – day and night – these requirements are mandatory and as such, there is no scope to minimise any impacts. The stone circle might not be subjected to physical harm, but its landscape setting would be badly damaged and other important archaeological remains would be destroyed.
A situation exists, in which there is a one-off opportunity to secure the long-term future of Stonehenge – a heritage asset of unsurpassable importance. There is still time, to ‘get it right’; however, my concerns lie with the fact that the government and HE/NT seem prepared to accept compromises. I’m used to the government acting this way, but I’m massively disappointed with EH – the (so-called) guardians of our heritage.
English Heritage, Historic England and The National Trust, joint supporters of a short tunnel at Stonehenge, may wish to look away now. We are reproducing below an extract from a book published last week by UNESCO – “World Heritage Today in Europe” which has a bearing on the matter. (It was published with the generous support of the French Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy. Had it been financed in Britain it may well have said something different, so hurrah for the French!)
Case Study – Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites’
The property ‘Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites’ was inscribed on the List in 1986. Following this decision, a draft Statement of Significance was prepared, based on documentation considered by ICOMOS and the World Heritage Committee at the time of inscription. The Statement was developed by the property Steering Committees and other stakeholders, submitted to UNESCO by the government of the United Kingdom, and then agreed by the World Heritage Committee in 2008. In accordance with the requirements for Statements of Outstanding Universal Value outlined in the Operational Guidelines in 2005, a full Statement of Outstanding Universal Value was adopted by the Committee in 2013.
Attributes were first developed for Stonehenge when drafting its 2009 Management Plan. This involved a wide stakeholder group managed through the Stonehenge Advisory Forum and included a three-month public consultation period involving an exhibition, a questionnaire, a website and a polling of local residents. The attributes were reviewed during the development of the first Management Plan to cover the whole property, adopted in 2015, and it was recognised that they apply to the entire property. At each stage, great care was taken to ensure that the attributes were firmly based on the text of the agreed Statement.
The attributes are:
1. The global fame and iconic status of Stonehenge itself;
2. The physical remains of the Neolithic and Bronze Age funerary and ceremonial monuments and associated sites;
3. The siting of Neolithic and Bronze Age funerary and ceremonial sites and monuments in the landscape;
4. The design of Neolithic and Bronze Age funerary and ceremonial sites and monuments in relation to the skies and astronomy;
5. The siting of Neolithic and Bronze Age funerary and ceremonial sites and monuments in relation to each other;
6. The disposition, physical remains and settings of the key Neolithic and Bronze Age funerary, ceremonial and other monuments and sites of the period, which together form a landscape without parallel;
7. The influence of the remains of Neolithic and Bronze Age funerary and ceremonial monuments and their landscape settings on architects, artists, historians, archaeologists and others.
The whole process helped to clarify the understanding of the property’s Outstanding Universal Value among key stakeholders. The attributes are now proving to be a useful tool in assessing potential impacts on Outstanding Universal Value, particularly in clarifying its spatial implications for development planners. They will constitute the basis of formal planning guidance for the property.
Making a case for a short tunnel will require showing that not just one but all seven of those attributes won’t be damaged whereas common sense would suggest they all will be. Massive entrance trenches can’t be talked away. So far there has been silence on the issue, just talk about “the benefits”. Shortly the mattter will have to be addressed. Look out for fibs, foutards, re-interpretations and smokescreens.
Foothold (fo͝ot′hōld′) noun: A firm or secure position that provides a base for further advancement.
What has that to do with Oswestry? Well, here’s the land all the fuss is about, as seen from the top of the hillfort. Pretty bad, yes?
But in fact it’s only a foothold. Here it is, shown in blue.
You can be absolutely certain that if OSWOO4 squeezes through then in a very short time the developers will push hard to develop the other areas, shown in red. Why can we all be so certain? Because they’ve already tried immensely hard to do so and at no point have they said they won’t do so again. The HOOOH website has just published compelling evidence that the developers’ agents have already started that process.
Mendacious moneymen, conniving councils and gutless guardians all use precedents as crutches to support what is otherwise unsupportable. OSWOO4 is most certainly a precedent in waiting. A foothold. If there’s anyone left in Oswestry or anywhere else who thinks building on OSWOO4 is no big deal let them look at the above image.
We’ve been asked “where is the video pushing for a short tunnel mentioned recently”. It’s here and it’s well worth a look. It’s a very professional production but you may well feel it’s contents are the opposite. How about the claim “If designed well, the tunnel would bring huge benefits”? Is it professional to say that but not to spell out the massive damage it would also cause? And is it professional to enthuse about any tunnel at this stage when the route and exit points haven’t been decided upon? Doesn’t that signal the opposite of professionalism, an agenda to support the Government’s declared intention whatever the heritage damage?
Maybe most telling of all is how remarkably similar this new video is to the previous one about removing the A344. The graphics, text and music are so similar the new one could easily be seen as a continuation of the earlier one. There’s a reason, we suspect. The removal of the A344 had few downsides and was almost universally welcomed. Now the construction of a short tunnel is being presented as part of the same beneficial process.
It is not. It is quite separate and involves massive damage. You may therefore suspect that the “part two” video employs a subliminal, psychological trick, something one might expect from a down market advertising agency, not from heritage champions. As “Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site Friends” observed last Tuesday, it is “unashamed propaganda foisted on a public evidently believed by HE to be gullible“. We can also add our own view that this claim by Historic Englend that they are working “to make sure plans for the tunnel protect and enhance the Stonehenge World Heritage Site” is actually a fib, for they know and we know a short tunnel cannot protect the World Heritage Site. Doesn’t Britain owe itself and the world better than fibs?
For one night only, Hillfort Live! is reinventing the tribute act for the 21st century, by taking it all the way back to the 3rd century – BC.
At Oswestry’s Hermon Arts Centre on February 13, the Iron Age will become the new rock and roll for an evening of entertainment celebrating Old Oswestry.
Expect the unconventional as musicians and performers doff their artistic hats to Oswestry’s iconic hillfort, recently dubbed the ‘Stonehenge of the Iron Age’.
The eclectic programme of music and performance, with a tinge of comedy, is part of the Old Oswestry Hillfort Hug Weekend organised by campaign group, HOOOH, and running February 13 to 14.
The line-up includes The Improetry Collective, a collaboration of musicians with Neil McKeown performing classic poetry with a hillfort twist.
There will also be improvised drama making reference to the hillfort from Pimp$ouls, aka Terry and Dru Cripps. Newly formed Oswestry Jazz Orchestra will be performing modern jazz and improvisations.
Old Oswestry textures will also feature in original tracks written by Guy Turner, and the Iron Age meets electronica and drum and bass in compositions performed by producer, Envelope.
In ‘An Audience with Old Oswestry’, musician and T-shirt philosopher, Neil Phillips, will take an alternative look at the hillfort’s current woes over planned housing in its back garden.
This prehistoric night out to remember starts at 7.30pm and admission is free.
Two images of hundreds of protestors at a hillfort. Can you spot the crucial difference?
Well, the top one is the surroundings of Cissbury Rings, West Sussex and the lower one is Oswestry, Shropshire. But the difference is more than that. At the top one the Council promptly listened to the democratic voice and abandoned its sell-off plans. At the bottom one Shropshire Council not only ignored the democratic voice but also the combined voices of a host of national and international experts.
For reasons it still hasn’t explained it insists that a County with less than half a million people and 860,000 acres to choose from MUST build houses on one particular tiny spot where it will do maximum damage.
Back in November we highlighted another instance of heritage being safer in West Sussex than Shropshire) which prompted Oswestry Hillfort campaigner Dr George Nash to write: “I have just asked the Chairman of West Sussex Council if Old Oswestry Hillfort and its surrounding landscape can be incorporated into West Sussex. We want this ancient site to be administered by a useful, honest and progressive cultural heritage team”. The above two pictures illustrate why that would be a damn good thing.
From a correspondent
Whilst the particulars of the short tunnel route being prepared by Highways England remain undisclosed, a radical proposal for a combined bypass for Stonehenge and Salisbury has caused a stir. There is no lack of opinion, despite the lack of detail on exact routes for both proposals.
Imagine that at this point the neighbours of each of the sick relatives, along with the local M.P, take sides as to which operation should be performed on whom. Were this situation being played out in a reality TV show, media and wider public interest would be giving rise to questions. Why have the relevant authorities and now two charities issued a joint promotional film pushing for a particular operation that would not be the best outcome for a patient in their care? Why are all so focused on an operation for just one of the patients when both could benefit from a common operation? Why are stances being adopted that aren’t in the best interests of all of those in need?
The apparent wish list for tackling traffic congestion either side of Stonehenge appears to include the following: road safety and improved traffic flow, faster journey times between London and the West Country, reduction of rat-running, and the financial cost and effect on the local, regional and national economies and, last of all and not first as it ought to be, impact on the Stonehenge World Heritage Site. What isn’t on this list at all is eradicating the current free view of the stones to enhance the milking of the English Heritage Trust’s cash cow, removing a strip of tarmac from National Trust land in invitation to establish their own visitor centre, saving the local M.P. from a fall-out with his party’s whips or giving David Cameron a send-off without a U-turn.
Whether the combined Stonehenge/Salisbury bypass operation is adopted as a sound idea or not, far into the future it will enter the history books as marking the point at which important questions arose. Will the answer to those questions ultimately be that this present generation were largely only interested in themselves?
The love just grows and grows for Old Oswestry hillfort.
Shropshire councillors may have voted to throw open its ancient landscape to development, but defiant residents will be scaling its ramparts on Valentine’s Day in a hug of protection for the Iron Age icon.
Following the success of last year’s inaugural hug, campaign group HOOOH is staging a weekend of events embracing the archaeology and landscape of one of Britain’s most celebrated hillforts.
Running February 13 and 14, the Old Oswestry Hug Weekend will include a heritage seminar, craft workshops, art exhibitions, music event, as well as a mass hug of the hillfort itself.
Expanding on its well-received seminar in 2014, HOOOH will be hosting a full day symposium in Oswestry’s Memorial Hall on Saturday 13 February. Invited speakers will explore Old Oswestry’s multi-faceted archaeology and heritage landscape as well as modern-day planning threats to it.
The hillfort hug will take place from 1pm on Sunday 14 February, culminating in a procession along the ramparts with lights and drums. It attracted over 450 people last year and was supported by a national social media campaign, #hugyourheritage, created by the Council of British Archaeology.
HOOOH is also delighted to announce that the hug event is being supported by a number of local artists with an exciting series of exhibitions under the banner ‘Artists Hugging Old Oswestry Hillfort’ (AHH!).
Members of art groups, Inside Out Art and Borderland Visual Arts, are busy creating artwork, including paintings, sculpture, textiles and jewellery, inspired by the 3,000-year-old monument and its landscape. Many will be on display in time for the hug weekend.
From February 1 to April 4, Oswestry’s Heritage & Visitor Centre will be showing an exhibition of AHH! work entitled ‘Views of, and on, Old Oswestry Hillfort’.
Oswestry arts venue, Hermon, will also be showcasing a number of AHH! installations during February and will be hosting drum and light-making workshops on February 6 and 13. It is also staging ‘Hillfort Live’, an evening of ‘hillfort-centric’ music and performance on February 13 from 7.30pm.
A third exhibition will run at Oswestry’s Willow Gallery from April 23 to May 21, incorporating photos and film of this year’s hug.
Campaigner Dr George Nash said: “This is yet again another extremely visual display by the people of Shropshire and the Borderlands showing their support for this iconic monument. Let’s hope Shropshire Council with its new leader can see and hear what the people are saying, which is simply ‘No’ to development.”
Llanarmon-based artist Diana Baur, spokesperson for AHH!, said: “Local artists are making works that reference the hillfort, visually expressing its importance for future generations and the fight to protect its setting. Plans are being laid for the exhibition to then travel further afield linking to other areas where our national heritage is threatened.”
HOOOH is campaigning against the reassignment of the hillfort’s eastern hinterland – and heart of Oswestry’s heritage gateway – for an estate of 117 houses. Despite overwhelming opposition and calls from the highest echelons of British archaeology to reject the development, it was recently approved by Shropshire Council on the SAMDev local plan.
This Sunday there’s a metal detecting rally just south of Oswestry. Not near the setting of the hillfort you understand, detecting is forbidden there……
…. which is strange, as an archaeological report on the land reckoned: “The owners of Oldport Farm confirm that their land is often combed by metal detectors who informally report finds of musket balls, presumed to date to the Civil War period”. Often combed by metal detectors, eh? Yet now they’re banned. Pourquoi? Supply your own theory, but here’s mine: “someone” doesn’t want anything found that might put a spanner in the money-making works, things like important archaeological artefacts and evidence that might prompt talk of protecting the land from development!
You won’t have heard that from officialdom though. Not in their remit, see. Although, you might hear some of them quietly singing …
If you wake at midnight, and hear a horse’s feet,
Don’t go drawing back the blind, or looking in the street,
Them that ask no questions isn’t told a lie.
Watch the wall my darling while the Gentlemen go by.
Not that “someone” needs to worry that detectorists might mess things up. The Portable Antiquity Scheme recently admitted they think 70% of detecting finds don’t get reported to them and there’s no reason to think things would be different in Oswestry. Indeed, I refuse to believe that a bunch of detectorists who kept coming back often were only finding a few musket balls and nothing else. Unless they were all insane. Which I doubt.
However, getting permission to build houses in a scheduled monument’s setting involves attending to every detail, including trying to ensure no-one picks up (literally) anything that might ruin everything. Thus, it’s not just detectorists but human beings that are banned from the land and it’s worth noting there’s STILL a notice about not stepping off the path because of chemicals. (Still? Really? Is this Chernobyl?) As a result, we have this bizarre spectacle …..
[Image Credits: firstname.lastname@example.org and HOOOH]
A design consultant has just been appointed to develop “a preferred option” at Stonehenge. That sounds innocuous but it’s the opposite. Their remit is limited to examining which short tunnel would be best not which option would cause no damage (and who in their right mind wouldn’t say that was preferable?)
So it’s beyond dispute that to establish the term “preferred option” in respect of a limited number of options all of which will be massively damaging, is to mislead the public, to put it politely. It cannot be “preferable” to flout the World Heritage Convention, especially with the aid of cheap linguistic tricks worthy of a banana republic.
It is to be hoped that this attempt to manipulate the debate so as to confine discussions to unacceptable options not options that are best for the World Heritage Site will be seen for what it is. In particular, let ICOMOS UK and UNESCO stand fast in support of the Convention and the whole WHS and let the public understand that although they will hear the phrase “the preferred option” many thousands of times in the coming years it’s literal meaning is “the preferred unacceptable option”.