You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Stonehenge’ category.

The “result” of consultations on options for widening the A303 across the Stonehenge World Heritage Site is yet to be announced – or “presented through an undemocratic lense” one might say. There will be no surprises. It will be said to point to popular and expert enthusiasm for the protection and enhancement of the World Heritage landscape – hoorah! – but a version of protection and enhancement which will have an unspoken opposite effect. How could it be otherwise, given Highways England’s and the Government’s stated aims? Let no-one be in doubt: their primary aim is not to protect and enhance the World Heritage landscape and it never was. They can only do that without building a surface dual carriageway.

This is a tragedy that has been long in the making. In 2012 Simon Jenkins smelt a rat about the Olympic opening ceremony. Was its depiction of rural Britain as “a land of fields and ploughmen, cottages, cows, sheep and horses, of Glastonbury, cricket and the Proms” a cover for a more radical vision, and was the countryside in the cross hairs of the Government and its developer friends (who kindly helped them fashion the new Planning approach)? Should the name of the ceremony be changed from “The Isles of Wonder” to “Goobye to all that”?!

Time showed that his discomfort with the direction of travel was justified and in the following year, in a piece titled “Our Glorious Land in Peril” he reiterated his view that the new presumption in favour of sustainable development, defined merely as profitable, was the most philistine concept in planning history and he spoke witheringly of the architects of the policy:
“None of these politicians shows any awareness of the beauty of the rural landscape. All live in prosperous cities and probably holiday abroad. Urban renewal is beyond them. That English people should treasure their countryside, as polls show they do overwhelmingly, is beyond them.”

Now that one of our most loved views, the free view of Stonehenge from the A303, is intended to be snatched away forever, his words still have great resonance:Ministers may win Right-wing guffaws in think-tank saloons. But it is their deeds now being scratched and scarred across the face of England that we shall remember.” The scratches and scars, if allowed to happen, will outlive Chris Grayling and the rest by millenia.

After years of biased advocacy, the short tunnel supporters (the Government, its 3 “yes-bodies” and a thin veneer of allegiant archaeologists) just had a clear reply from UNESCO: the short tunnel should be scrapped! So the question now arises, what will they do? Accept it? Or ignore it and carry on regardless?

Highway’s England’s hurried initial reaction suggests the latter: “We remain confident our scheme will enhance and protect the Stonehenge landscape.” That meaningless statement often works for developers seeking to build a few houses in small villages. But this is no village, it’s the Stonehenge World Heritage Site and this is no parish council UNESCO are talking to – it’s the world.

So far as we can see the Government can react in one of two ways. It can say, fair enough, we’ve miraculously found the finance to avoid harming the landscape. OR, and this is our guess, it can get some friendly archaeologists to start discrediting UNESCO in the public mind. Keep watching. We’ll know soon!

.

What do you do when the world’s leading heritage body opposes your ambitions? Demonise it? Is Simon Thurley, ex English Heritage leader, doing exactly that for the British Government?

This NGO (ICOMOS UK, the national advisory body to UNESCO) it is widely felt, adds another layer of complexity and (often) confusion to an already complex landscape of heritage protection and planning.” It “limps on as a membership organisation producing reports on UK World Heritage Sites and other conservation matters. It rarely sees eye to eye with Historic England and its views are more or less ignored within government – but it guides and advises UNESCO on UK World Heritage Sites, and thus has some influence.”

“The UK has a sophisticated and democratic planning system, and the government and local authorities have questioned the right of unelected international ‘experts’ to challenge what has been decided under UK law. Indeed, some believe that UNESCO should concentrate on making lists of pizza-makers and endangered sports rather than involving itself in the complex issues of national planning policy.”

Oh Simon! Who asked you to write that?

The various current proposals for altering the A303 around Stonehenge all share a common theme in that they will all be bad for local wildlife. The Great Bustard Group (GBG) has worked hard to try and ensure the iconic Great Bustard is at least considered during the various meetings, consultations and reviews.

It has been an uphill battle with each new team of consultants or experts having to be identified and then briefed from scratch. One expert working for Highways England confidently announced they had been told there were no Great Bustards in the area.  GBG staff took them out and showed them over 15, almost in sight of the Stones. The next meeting comes along and there is a new face, who knows nothing about the birds.

A new threat to the recently restored population of Great Bustards now exists. Ground Water & Ecological surveys are taking place in the fields around Stonehenge. These are now involving teams in hi-viz clothing and vehicles with loud reversing beepers and they will be roving the fields used by some of the rarest birds in the UK for nesting.

That this should be taking place anywhere during the bird nesting season is concerning, but in an area with nesting Great Bustards and the rare and sensitive Stone Curlew it is particularly concerning.  The birds will either be denied the places to nest, or the worse scenario is that they will abandon their eggs due to the disturbance. The GBG was told about the latest works but only days after they had started.

No Great Bustards have been released within miles of Stonehenge and the birds have moved into the area naturally, and have nested there.

The GBG works closely with local farmers and land owners to do everything possible to ensure the Great Bustard nests are successful.

David Waters
Executive Officer
Great Bustard Group

In response to the Heritage Journal’s plea to the world’s media to monitor Highways England’s invasive work in the Stonehenge World Heritage Site, David Bullock, Highways England’s project manager for the A303 Stonehenge scheme said:

The suggestion that survey work will destroy layers of archaeology is alarmist and untrue.

Perhaps the public can judge if this is the case.

The attached images are of one of the dozens of trenches Highways England excavated in the field where Mr Bullock was interviewed by Paul Clifton of BBC South yesterday, it cut straight through Bronze Age archaeology already known to be there. Why then destroy it? Oh, we forgot, according to Highways England they were looking to see if anything was there and if it was then it isn’t destroyed – David Bullock can perhaps explain how the layers of archaeology and context destroyed by this trench simply reassembles itself when backfilled?

The worrying actuality of this typically brutal assault in the Stonehenge landscape is that more archaeology has been destroyed by ruthless evaluation schemes connected with visitor centre sites and proposed road routes in the World Heritage Site than anyone wants to publicly admit. The vast majority of this destruction, as in the present case, is carried out in the name of a perceived threat as opposed to a scheme that was actually known to be going ahead. Depressingly, the methods used in these cases have not been to the same standards to which academic research is carried out. As for what happens to the archaeology that isn’t dumped back in the trench as spoil – even the archaeological evidence painstakingly collected by Julian Richards during the Stonehenge Environs Project was dumped without even asking him or the landowner if they wanted it back.

“Alarmist and untrue”? We think not!

See:

BBC News

New Civil Engineer

In recent weeks farmers have kept machinery off the fields due to the wet conditions, pedestrian access to the Stonehenge permissive path has been closed by English Heritage and access to Avebury henge has similarly been closed by the National Trust to prevent footfall erosion. And yet Highways England’s contractors have been using a mechanical digger to excavate archaeological evaluation trenches in a field adjacent to Longbarrow Roundabout, just beyond the western boundary of the Stonehenge World Heritage Site (WHS). This work is being undertaken in connection with the proposed Stonehenge tunnel scheme.

The use of a heavy machine, which in continually moving back and forth in the current wet soil conditions would likely devastate any fragile archaeological deposits, underlines the threat that will soon reach the WHS. This was signalled when Highways England’s contractors started hand digging test pits in a nearby farmer’s field within the WHS last week. Located alongside the A303, between the area currently occupied by pigs and the A360 at Longbarrow Roundabout, this area is ankle deep in a crop masking the environs of an Early Bronze Age settlement lying across and within the boundary of the WHS.

This area of archaeological interest lies in the path of a proposed 1.2 km length of dual carriageway within the WHS, which would lie in a cutting 40–78 metres wide and 8 metres deep. The cutting stretches east from the A360, through the area now occupied by pigs to the proposed western tunnel portal location, at Normanton Gorse. We are told hundreds of archaeological test pits are proposed, to be followed by a herringbone pattern of trenches over the whole area.

Why has Highways England started this archaeological evaluation now when a growing crop will thwart field walking surveys, cloying earth is difficult to sieve for finds, and the introduction of a digger onto saturated ground could see fragile archaeological evidence lost forever?

If the investigations had been put off until the ground dried out the risk of damage would considerably reduce, but the timetable has been compressed by Highways England’s failure to engage constructively with landowners and farmers in the WHS, with no account of the farming calendar or extremely wet conditions exacerbated by periods of heavy snow. More to the point perhaps – why is this invasive and destructive investigation taking place at all when, if the road scheme is agreed, the archaeology in its path would have to be properly excavated anyway?

The public traveling along this stretch of the A303 will unwittingly bear witness to the impact of Highway England’s industrial approach to WHS archaeology. The archaeological work will continue for many weeks to come, yet the public can hardly be aware of what this activity means without the focus the media can bring. We hope the world’s media will help by monitoring what Highways England is doing, supposedly in the public interest, because there is no one that will keep an eye on this activity like the independent media can!

Further press enquiries: theheritagejournal@gmail.com

The final end of the land train era. Six “greener, cleaner buses” have arrived. But pardon us for mentioning it but exactly eight years ago, in April 2010, we wrote:

“Why not just use buses? These days there are as many environment-friendly innovations applying to them as to land trains – electric, hybrid, low-impact, you name it. And in addition, they are arguably just as or more flexible, inexpensive, safe, weatherproof, robust, long-lasting, reliable and easy to load – and they have a pretty small turning circle (hence require only a small footprint near the stones). Half a dozen of those and the job could be done – with no expensive, exclusive maintenance agreements with manufacturers, no equally expensive “custom built” elements – and let’s face it, buses are rather well-tested technology so they’d definitely give a high degree of reliability. There are thousands currently on sale, you’d get some beauties for £15,000 each so we’ll wager you could solve the whole visitor transit issue for a shed load less than the combined supply and exclusive maintenance packages the land train companies are quoting.”

and pardon us for also mentioning that exactly two years ago in April 2016 we wrote:

“The latest, and most eye-wateringly expensive debacle is the purchase and now abandonment of the Stonehenge land trains in favour of buses. The claim that they were privately financed seems rather economical with the actualité but it’s a fair bet we’ll never hear exactly how much money was lost. What IS absolutely true is that not a penny of it would have been if they hadn’t been so insistent that they were right and all those who said otherwise weren’t worth listening to. Less arrogance, more listening to the public seems to be the lesson to be learned”

Is there a moral? Listen to the public, sometimes they’re right? (And that goes for the Stonehenge tunnel too, as some in English Heritage are now admitting, we hear!)

Remember the big red Brexit Bus? Highways England does and they’ve been driving a flat bed up and down the A303, no doubt eagerly seeking traffic hold ups over the Bank Holiday, asking people to respond to the Consultation. Not in London or Cardiff or Leeds, places that have vastly more stakeholders in the matter, or at times when there was zero chance of a hold up.

.

.

It’s surely not how a public body should be acting? Here’s a democratic alternative….

It’s happened before so you never know, but it would put English Heritage in a terrible position. The Government wanted a tunnel for transport reasons and told English Heritage to support them – so they came up with some heritage improvement reasons. And it’s those which may yet leave them in an embarrassing self-made mire if the road project is cancelled – for which of these two possible announcements would they make?

In our role as guardian of Stonehenge, English Heritage regrets the Government’s plans not to invest in a fully bored tunnel of at least 2.9km” thereby implying they still thought a short tunnel would be good for Stonehenge and they’d continue to campaign for one forever!

Or …..
In our role as guardian of Stonehenge, English Heritage welcomes the Government’s plans not to invest in a fully bored tunnel of at least 2.9km” thereby implying they don’t think a short tunnel would be good for Stonehenge and their stance for the last 4 years was insincere!

It seems that it only takes a simple game of “just suppose” to cast a searing light onto the role of the main guardians of Stonehenge. It’s not a pretty sight.

Highways England has revealed that disgraced Australian cricketers, Steve Smith, David Warner, and Cameron Bancroft have been masterminding its attempts to present a short tunnel at Stonehenge as good for Stonehenge, Britain and the World. The crestfallen organisation confessed that its bitterest regret was the fact it had been caught but vowed that it wouldn’t happen again.

It was also announced that Bancroft will not be joining Somerset County Cricket Club for the forthcoming season. He sobbed: “I just couldn’t drive to work along the A303 knowing I had been part of Highways England’s attempt to deprive the people of Britain and the World of that wonderful view of Stonehenge. What was I thinking? I suppose I saw it as my job. Now I know better. My job is to do what’s right.

.

Archives

June 2018
S M T W T F S
« May    
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930

Follow Us

Follow us on Twitter

Follow us on Facebook

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 9,950 other followers

Twitter Feed

%d bloggers like this: