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Now (by sheer chance you understand) English Heritage is celebrating archive footage (courtesy of Heritage England) titled “A hundred years of change” showing how bad things were in the landscape years ago https://twitter.com/BBCSouthToday/status/832850377661902849 and ending with the words “As debate over the tunnel continues, the landscape will continue to change”…..
The subtext, surely, is “look, there used to be an airfield on the landscape (and that’s what sparked the debate about the setting of the stones and the landscape that surrounds them says an EH spokeswoman on the film) so us promoting vast new damage to the landscape is no big deal and justified and entirely consistent with Stonehenge’s changing story. We had an airfield. Now we’ll have a mile of dual carriageways. So what’s new or not to like?
Blatant and entirely false, or what?
We’ve all been bombarded with the benefits of removing the existing A303 (quieter stones and an average of 8 minutes off the travel time). Historic England, English Heritage, the National Trust and the Highways Agency have made sure of that. But have they fully explained the harm it will do? Of course not, and that’s a story in itself, the moral of which is that a pig with lipstick is still a pig whatever the Government’s agents are telling the public.
So for the avoidance of all doubt, here’s what we will lose. Everyone should keep it in mind every time anyone says the tunnel is fine:
Loss of national reputation. We’ve signed an international promise not to do what we’re proposing to do and we’re currently concocting a form of words to deny it (we have to be, for without that we can’t do it, yet the whole world will know we’re lying).
The damage. We’re not going to just dig a hole. Or a hundred holes. We’re going to dig out countless millions of cubic feet of land to drive dual carriageways, some of them in cuttings, for a mile across 27 sq.km of archaeologically rich landscape recognised to be of outstanding universal value to mankind.
The view. Which civilised country would deprive tens of millions of travellers a year of this ancient, iconic, world-famous sight? Depriving them of it even for a long tunnel would be tragic. Doing so for a short one would be unforgivable.
So, which of those three are you prepared to lose? Historic England, English Heritage, the National Trust and the Highways Agency want you to lose all three!
by Nigel Swift
Can I borrow £100 granny?” “No indeed you can’t” “Two shillings then?” “Certainly, here you are”.
That’s how my brother raised finance in the fifties and I’ve noticed the technique – ask for the world to soften people up till they’re grateful to agree to what you really intend – has been used by public bodies ever since. Especially when it comes to roads. In the eighties they told me the Hagley bypass would go straight through my house unless I expressed a preference for an alternative route – one which they always had in mind.
Their successors, Highways England, have adopted the same scare ’em tactics at Stonehenge, trying to manipulate local opinion by cynically recommending a rat run through the villages. Now they’ve apologised saying it was merely to highlight traffic in the area but they’ve removed the tweet “to avoid confusion”. Hmmm. I was amused by the comment of one member of the public leaving one of the consultation events: “I found it hard to talk to robots who are pre-programmed to talk bollox”.
Now Historic England, English Heritage and the National Trust have used the same tactic by saying that after all the tunnel they’ve supported is too damaging and they favour amendments. How noble and caring! What’s left is still 99% outrageous but they’d like credit for suggesting a 1% improvement. Well I for one find that awful. These are three bodies which are mandated and paid to look after the World Heritage landscape not to support massive new damage to it or to do so by inflicting cheap granny-cons on the public. I hope the public and UNESCO don’t fall for it.
It has to be a lie because there are lots of things which the British Government is spending vastly more money on, including tunnels – one that is 3.3 times longer through the Chilterns, another that is 4.4 times longer through South Manchester and a possible one between Manchester and Sheffield that is 10 times longer!
In addition, how come neither the Government nor Highways England nor English Heritage nor Historic England nor the National Trust are facing up to the fact our country has signed up to this:
Each State Party to this Convention recognizes that the duty of ensuring the identification, protection, conservation, presentation and transmission to future generations of the cultural and natural heritage referred to in Articles 1 and 2 and situated on its territory, belongs primarily to that State. It will do all it can to this end, to the utmost of its own resources and, where appropriate, with any international assistance and co-operation, in particular, financial, artistic, scientific and technical, which it may be able to obtain.”
The UNESCO mission is at Stonehenge this week. It is to be hoped they aren’t diverted from those two fundamental realities.
On the subject of digging up the Stonehenge landscape (see yesterday), Friend of the Journal Jim Rayner has sent us this contribution to the ever-growing list:
English Heritage & the National Trust will not allow as much as a tent peg to be hammered down into the ground near Stonehenge in case it ‘damages any sensitive archaeology’. Yet, they are supporting the potential construction of two massive dual carriageway tunnel portals within the World Heritage Site which would do exactly that! A situation so contradictory, you couldn’t actually make it up!
Relax. Highways England says it’s just “fact finding”! And anyway, there’s a Consultation going on, so nothing’s settled. Allegedly. Two things though:
- Does that really look like they haven’t decided exactly where to start, irrespective of any consultation? Seriously?
- And IS it a real Consultation? Rushed through in a couple of weeks following almost no notice and. apart from one exhibition at the Society of Antiquaries. all held locally within Wiltshire! There isn’t even one at Avebury, the other half of the World Heritage Site. Why? This is our national icon and it’s WORLD heritage. Shouldn’t there be exhibitions elsewhere in Britain – and maybe in New York and Paris? Those people beyond Wiltshire and beyond Britain are entitled, are they not, especially as it is mostly foreigners who visit and pay oodles. This is an international issue isn’t it?
Could it possibly be that the Government, the Highways Agency, English Heritage, Historic England and The National Trust are ashamed of what they are doing and are frit that the rest of the world will be appalled? We think so. Why else would the press have been given the line that UNESCO are supportive when it’s untrue? There’s one way to find out. Let the exhibition go on the road! And stop “fact finding” in the meantime else people will think the process is a complete farce.
We’d just like to say how much we agree with Professor Dan Hicks’ contribution to the short tunnel debate:
“Another old idea is being revived hand-in-hand with the tunnel – heritage restoration. The focus is the stones, not their landscape. Stonehenge is reimagined as a Stone Age exhibit untouched by modernity. The A303 would be grassed over at the stones while a new road twice as wide is cut across the World Heritage Site, but tunnelled within the paying visitors’ view. The aesthetics of this “Stonehenge Restored” are determinedly Georgian. A stately monument within rolling lawns from which shuttles run along a new coaching-road between Bath and London. That carriageway hidden from the monument, so customers can stroll an “authentic” landscape of the past, never glimpsing the present.
Hiding the road from the stones would hide the stones from the public. Some 1.3 m people will pass through the Stonehenge giftshop this year, but perhaps ten times that number will witness the monument from a passing vehicle. Those thrilling, often unexpected views may not be celebrated among the iconic experiences of global prehistory, but they are surely among the most democratic. Through these encounters, Stonehenge lives on as a public space. “
On the other hand we’d like to say how strongly we disagree with the alternative being served up to the public…….
Given this presentation is here today gone tomorrow, lacks substance, and this unfit for purpose tunnel solution is being pushed as a single remedy for the WHS – those old wagons bearing snake oil posters come to mind: a short tunnel …“is good for everything a snake oil ought to be good for” …“good for man and beast”… “apply locally and liberally” …“cures all”!