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A message from John Adams OBE, Chair of the Stonehenge Alliance:

An impressive 1,200+ responses to the redetermination consultation were forwarded to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and published by the Planning Inspectorate last week, including responses of those not registered as Interested Parties.  A huge thank you to all who managed to send in their comments.  These are being analysed by one of our volunteers but it looks as if objectors, NGOs and Stonehenge specialists have stood firm with their resolve strengthened.  

The Stonehenge Alliance submitted a raft of new documents which shows that the case for the scheme is even weaker than it was at the Public Examination in 2019.  We highlighted that the economic case for the tunnel, already in the red, is now far worse with rising construction costs and a heritage valuation survey that is no longer valid.  We also rebut National Highways’ assessment of alternatives, which is not fit for purpose as it failed to acknowledge the Examining Authority’s and Grant Shapps’ opinion that the road scheme would cause significant harm to the World Heritage Site.

Tom Holland, our President, said: “There is only one sane outcome to this process and that is for Grant Shapps to refuse permission for this highly damaging road scheme. Even though UNESCO has threatened to place the site on the List of World Heritage in Danger if the road goes ahead as planned, National Highways remains in complete denial about the impact of its plans for the Stonehenge landscape.  This Government-owned company is increasingly clutching at straws in its attempts to justify the desecration of our most iconic World Heritage Site.  

“If Grant Shapps refuses to take the sensible course and tell National Highways to go away and come back with something better, then at the very least he should hold a new public examination. The amount of technical information involved is far too great for the Secretary of State to make a new decision without first obtaining the expert advice of a team of independent planning inspectors.”

Updated response to the Statement of Matters on carbon 

Some of you might have received a further invitation to comment on National Highways’ updated response on carbon by 10 June.  This is a technical paper which the Alliance plans to comment on.  We will endeavour to circulate some key points in due course. 

ABOUT THE STONEHENGE ALLIANCE

The Stonehenge Alliance is a group of non-governmental organisations and individuals that seeks enhancements to the Stonehenge World Heritage Site and opposes development that would cause it significant harm.  More about us 

The petition against the road is at almost 220,000 signatures.  You can sign and share here.

We have not nor ever will change our opinion of the proposed A303 road scheme with its hugely damaging tunnel. Our opinion has remained consistent since this letter (below), nicely summarising the situation, was published in the Daily Telegraph 28 April 2014. We don’t want to lose the free view from the A303, we don’t want the cuttings on either side of the tunnel to remove everything in the road’s path, and we don’t want a flyover landing alongside Blick Mead.

We will continue to resist this damaging Scheme and will lay down in front of the path of the tunnel if it comes to that. All we want is for Unesco to stand firm and not be taken in by late attempts to pretend the Scheme benefits the World Heritage Site. It does not. STAND FIRM UNESCO – BACK US UP PLEASE.

one of the joys of going on the current A303 is that one gets a glimpse of Stonehenge and I think that is a great benefit and it’s uplifting for people to see”

Jacob Rees-Mogg

As another deadline for the future of the Stonehenge WHS approaches, we have received the following communication from the Stonehenge alliance:

Dear Supporter,

This is a reminder to let you know that the deadline for comments on submissions by National Highways is nearly upon us. 

We are most concerned that, once again,  National Highways is lobbying hard for its discredited Stonehenge road widening scheme to be approved by the Secretary of State for Transport.   
CLICK HERE FOR KEY POINTS TO INCORPORATE
We believe our list of points make a compelling case for a re-examination of the scheme BEFORE the Secretary of State redetermines a re-application for the very same road scheme.

Comments must be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate  by 23:59, MONDAY, 4 APRIL 2022
Please email: A303Stonehenge@planninginspectorate.gov.uk
Western tunnel entrance and cutting | Photo and image credit: National Highways 2019.  More images of the Stonehenge road scheme can be found here.
Thank you so much to all our supporters who have sent comments to the Planning Inspectorate. 

Several of you have pointed out that if you did not register as an “interested party” for the Examination in 2019 you might receive a bureaucratic reply from the Planning Inspectorate as per the graphic below.

  
DO NOT be discouraged!  Your comments will be read, they will make a difference and, we sincerely hope, will be published by the Secretary of State for Transport along with all the others.  One of our supporters who took exception to the irksome reply, elicited an informative response from the Planning Inspectorate. The exchange can be read here.
ABOUT THE STONEHENGE ALLIANCE: The Stonehenge Alliance is a group of non-governmental organisations and individuals that seeks enhancements to the Stonehenge World Heritage Site and opposes development that would cause it significant harm.

A paper entitled ‘Keeping Time at Stonehenge’ written by Professor Timothy Darvill, Professor of Archaeology in the Faculty of Science and Technology at Bournemouth University and published in the journal ‘Antiquity’, concludes that the Stonehenge monument served as an ancient solar calendar based on a solar year of 365.25 days, helping people keep track of the days, weeks and months.

“The clear solstitial alignment of Stonehenge has prompted people to suggest that the site included some kind of calendar since the antiquarian William Stukeley,” Professor Darvill said.

He continued, “Now, discoveries brought the issue into sharper focus and indicate the site was a calendar based on a tropical solar year of 365.25 days.”

Recent research showed that Stonehenge’s sarsens were added during the same phase of construction around 2500 BC. They were sourced from the same area and subsequently remained in the same formation. This indicates they worked as a single unit.

Professor Darvill analysed these stones, examining their numerology and comparing them to other known calendars from this period. He identified a solar calendar in their layout, suggesting they served as a physical representation of the year which helped the inhabitants keep track of the days, weeks and months.

He further informs, “The proposed calendar works in a very straightforward way. Each of the 30 stones in the sarsen circle represents a day within a month, itself divided into three weeks each of 10 days.”

The distinctive stones in the circle mark the start of each week and the intercalary month of five days and a leap day every four years were also reflected in the design.

“The intercalary month, probably dedicated to the deities of the site, is represented by the five trilithons in the centre of the site.”

“The four Station Stones outside the Sarsen Circle provide markers to notch up until a leap day.”

This means the Winter and Summer solstices would be framed by the same pairs of stones every year.

One of the trilithons also frames the winter solstice, indicating it may have been the new year.

This solstitial alignment also helps calibrate the calendar – any errors in counting the days would be easily detectable as the sun would be in the wrong place on the solstices.

Such a calendar, with 10 day weeks and extra months, may seem unusual today but were adopted by many cultures during this period

“Such a solar calendar was developed in the eastern Mediterranean in the centuries after 3000 BC and was adopted in Egypt as the Civil Calendar around 2700 BC and was widely used at the start of the Old Kingdom about 2600 BC.”

This raises the possibility that the calendar tracked by Stonehenge may stem from the influence of one of these other cultures.

Links

Cambridge University Press ‘Keeping Time at Stonehenge’:

A Press Release from the Stonehenge Alliance:

Western tunnel entrance and cutting | Photo and image credit: National Highways 2019

The Secretary of State for Transport wants to make a new decision on the Stonehenge road scheme. He asked National Highways for responses to five matters he wishes to consider i.e.  Alternatives, Policy, Carbon, Environmental Information and Any Other Matters. 

National Highways has responded. (See “Documents” tab in this link) and the Secretary of State for Transport has now invited comments on these submissions and any other relevant information.

Comments must be submitted by midnight on 4 April 2022.

The submissions by National Highways are technical and lengthy.  The Stonehenge Alliance and its expert advisers are preparing a full technical response which we will share in due course.   

However, it is important that the Secretary of State for Transport hears from the wider public on these issues.  We’re therefore asking as many people to respond as possible, raising some or all of the points below.

If you can, please make the points in your own words and add any other points you might wish to make.  

National Highways has not:

  • made any changes to the Scheme to take the 2021 World Heritage Committee Decision into account;
  • acknowledged that the Secretary of State found the Scheme’s impact on the proposed western cutting area would be “significantly adverse”;
  • fully assessed alternative routes less damaging to the World Heritage Site e.g., a southern bypass route would be cheaper even if there might be some problems with it, while a longer tunnel would reduce impact on the World Heritage Site;
  • explored alternatives to hard engineering solutions in the context of safeguarding and enhancing the World Heritage Site – e.g. a package of measures to reduce road traffic, road emissions and improve access to the South West;
  • updated the scheme construction costs; nor
  • updated the carbon assessment and costs.

Other changes since the Examination closed:

  • concern for climate change has increased with the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report and the need to take urgent action to reduce emissions, not increase them as any new Stonehenge road scheme would; and
  • the Environment Act 2021 sets new ambitions around nature recovery.

Please email your responses by 4 April to: A303Stonehenge@planninginspectorate.gov.uk, remembering to include your name and address.

Many thanks for your help and continued support.

John Adams OBE
Chairman
The Stonehenge Alliance

The critics are unanimous: the British Museum’s new exhibition, The World of Stonehenge, is a triumph.

And so says the Guardian, who have given a glowing 5-star review to the latest extravaganza display of our Neolithic past within the museum’s hallowed halls.

Yet all is not necessarily well at the BM. Yet again, the sponsorship of the museum by petrochemical giants BP has been called into question.

And we would also question the use of the Stonehenge name in the exhibition. Individual exhibits range from across Europe and the UK – as shown by the use of the Nebra Sky Disk (made with Cornish Gold) on the cover of the accompanying catalogue (£35!) Is the Stonehenge name being used because of the money it can draw in? We all know that Stonehenge is a cash cow for English Heritage, Heritage England and the National Trust.

And finally, at the weekend our friends at the Stonehenge Alliance staged a small roadside protest outside the museum, to warn visitors that the Stonehenge World Heritage Site near Salisbury is still ‘under threat’ from a £1.7 billion major road scheme.

As regular readers will be aware, the plans to upgrade the A303 past the 5,000-year-old Stonehenge stone circle will cause “significant” harm to the World Heritage Site.

John Adams, chairman of the Stonehenge Alliance, said:

Stonehenge is one of the most impressive megalithic structures in the world and the World Heritage Site has the densest concentration of burial mounds anywhere in Britain.

The road scheme would require massive civil engineering works within the World Heritage Site, with huge damage to this unique landscape. Even the Transport Secretary accepted the road would cause significant harm.

The scheme was firmly rejected by five senior Planning Inspectors and by UNESCO and in 2021 the High Court quashed the development consent for the scheme. The Stonehenge Alliance is asking the Government to think again.

We need a new approach that improves people’s access to the South West without damaging the World Heritage Site or increasing carbon emissions. There are better schemes the government could spend £2bn on.”

In 1849 a young relative of Wordsworth, Emmeline Fisher, wrote Lines on the Opening of Silbury Hill, a poetic apology to the ancestors for an excavation that was going on at that time into the “Green Pyramid of the plains, from far-ebbed Time” as she called it. It commenced:

Bones of our wild forefathers, O forgive,
If now we pierce the chambers of your rest,
And open your dark pillows to the eye
Of the irreverent Day!

We think there may be a much more significant apology due soon, for the gouging of a mile of new dual carriageway through Europe’s most important prehistoric landscape at Stonehenge and the stealing of the free view of the stones currently enjoyed by millions of travellers a year. We’ll all be long gone when the full scale of the loss is fully understood by a future possessing technology inconceivably more sophisticated than ours.

So, we would like to announce a poetry competition, in the form of an apology to the future. The winning entry or entries will be put in an envelope sealed with red wax and placed in a ceramic urn, just like Emmeline’s was, and buried just outside the World Heritage site, an apology for posterity to find!

.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Entries please, no longer than 10 lines, with your own choice of title. We’ll publish some of them here in the Journal and elsewhere and the winner will be chosen by a committee drawn from some of the many organisations and groups who have worked so hard for so long to stop this dreadful scheme going ahead. Then, if the worst happens, on the day the first bulldozer is deployed, we will bury the apologies as described. Please send your entries to info@heritageaction.org.uk  Good luck!

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Dear Heritage Journal,

I’ve just seen on BBC iplayer a very interesting programme about the Oseberg Viking Burial Ship. This is one of Norway’s most prized archaeological finds due to the extraordinarily well-preserved 1,200-year-old artefacts. Amazingly around 90% of the original longship has been preserved for display, complete with most of the ornately detailed carvings on the boat. All of this preservation is because the site remained permanently damp for 1,200 years and so a lot could be preserved, carbon-dated, and accurately interpreted.

The reason I am saying this is because in Britain we have a hugely important and rich archaeological site which has remained continuously damp for over 10,000 years. That site is called Blick Mead and it is just beginning to reveal how hunter-gatherers evolved to become the culture of people who built the wider Stonehenge World Heritage Site.

Despite its importance, the British Government, English Heritage, and National Trust think it’s acceptable to bore a massive tunnel with a four-lane dual carriageway and a flyover very close to it. Even though it is a scientific fact that this will eventually dry out Blick Mead and seriously damage it – forever!

__________________________________________________________

More money is needed in the fight against the Stonehenge short tunnel scheme which hands a near-monopoly over even seeing Stonehenge to a quango. If you possibly can, please contribute to the fight opposing it here. ___________________________________________________________

Following last week’s news that a date has been set for the High Court challenge against the decision to go ahead with the tunnel at Stonehenge, SSWHS issued a further press release as follows:

Dear supporter,

Success at the first hurdle! On Wednesday (24th Feb) we learnt that our challenge to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps’ shocking decision to go ahead with the A303 Stonehenge scheme would be heard in the High Court on 23 – 25 June.

Apart from the Department for Transport defending our challenge, Highways England and Historic England will also be taking part as interested parties.

We’re contesting the decision on the following grounds:

* Harm to each heritage asset within the project should have been weighed in the balance, instead of considering the “historic environment” as a whole.

* None of the advice provided by Historic England provided the evidential basis for the Secretary of State’s conclusion of “less than substantial harm” to any of the assets impacted by the project.

* He allowed purported “heritage benefits” to be weighed against heritage harm, before deciding whether that overall harm was “substantial” or “less than substantial”, which was unlawful under the National Policy Statement

* He failed to take into account that development consent would breach the World Heritage Convention

* He left out of account mandatory material considerations: the breach of various local policies; the impact of his finding of heritage harm which undermined the business case for the proposal and the existence of at least one alternative

Thanks to your generosity we reached our initial target of £50,000 very quickly and this enabled us to go forward with the necessary preparation work for the judicial review. However, due to the complicated nature of the case and the amount of work needed for a three-day hearing, we are having to raise our target to £80,000. We hope you understand and feel able to continue to support us. Legal action is expensive and although our lawyers are working for us at a heavily discounted rate, costs mount up. We also have to bear in mind that any decision could be appealed which we would potentially have to fundraise for as well.

Nevertheless, we are firmly committed to the fight to save Stonehenge World Heritage Site from irreparable damage and with your help we have successfully negotiated the first hurdle. Now we need to prepare for the hearing.

Thanks for your support so far, we cannot do this without you.

With best wishes,

John, Mike, Chris and Kate

Donations are still being accepted on the SSWHS CrowdJustice page. Please donate if you are able, every penny helps.

Save Stonehenge WHS Ltd. (SSWHS – a company established by individual Stonehenge Alliance supporters to take forward the legal action) heard this week that a three-day High Court hearing will take place from 23rd to 25th June. SSWHS is challenging Transport Secretary Grant Shapps’ decision to go ahead with the highly damaging A303 dual carriageway through the World Heritage Site (WHS). His decision was taken against the advice of a panel of five senior Planning Inspectors (the Examining Authority) who formally examined the scheme in 2019.

The Inspectors considered that the scheme’s benefits “would not outweigh the harm arising from the excavation of a deep, wide cutting and other engineering works, within the WHS and its setting, of a scale and nature not previously experienced historically in this ‘landscape without parallel’”. UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee, who gave the WHS its international designation in 1986, has also condemned the road scheme.

The complexity of the case has obliged SSWHS to raise its funding target for the legal challenge, including the three-day hearing.

Kate Fielden, Hon Secretary the Stonehenge Alliance and SSWHS, said:

“Having a date for the court hearing gives us something to aim for in preparing for our challenge to Grant Shapps’ outrageous decision. We urge our supporters to help us to continue the fight to save our famous World Heritage Site from this appalling scheme. There can be no more iconic symbol of the global heritage of mankind than Stonehenge and we have a duty to safeguard it for future generations.”

The Stonehenge Alliance supporter-organisations are: Ancient Sacred Landscape Network; CPRE; FoE; Rescue, the British Archaeological Trust; and Transport Action Network.

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