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The Government says a 1.8 mile tunnel is all they can afford at Stonehenge. Conservation bodies English Heritage, Historic England and The National Trust have said that would be OK and they’ll support it, even though a mile of massive approach roads will have to be driven through the UNESCO protected World Heritage Site. Logic suggests they CANNOT be right to do so but now there’s something happening to suggest that their stance is not only wrong but foolish. Britain is talking about building an 18 mile long road tunnel between Manchester and Sheffield – that’s ten times longer than at Stonehenge!
Someone in the Government is telling porkies about what can be comfortably offered at Stonehenge. By the same token, supporting the short tunnel there on the basis that’s all that can be afforded is going along with – and aiding – a falsehood.
And here’s a funny thing: the latest rumour is that Brexit may mean major projects including Stonehenge are cancelled. If it happens it will put English Heritage, Historic England and the National Trust in a ticklish spot. Will they express regret about it, which will be ludicrous or will they welcome it, which will indicate their existing stance is ludicrous? We’ll see. They may yet come to ruefully reflect that supporting the Government is riskier than supporting what’s right – since the former may change whereas the latter never will.
Dear English Heritage,
I hear you’re looking for a Conservation Maintenance Manager at £38,000.
I’ve been reading about your policies, particularly your support for a short tunnel at Stonehenge. I think my previous experience makes me an ideal candidate for this vacancy.
Here’s me at The Great Wall of China.
If I’m unsuccessful could you forward this letter to the other organisations which share your conservation standards? I’m interested in The National Trust’s current vacancy for a Project Conservator or even Historic England’s vacancy for an Assistant Inspector of Ancient Monuments.
Kung Fu Ken
On that day Historic England is sponsoring a conference celebrating 30 years since Stonehenge was added to the World Heritage List. Very nice. Except that it will include an examination of “developments in conservation”. Why?
Well, Historic England, English Heritage and the National Trust are all making presentations. All three have been pushing hard for a short tunnel with entrances and new road infrastructure inside the World Heritage Site even though it simply can’t happen unless the meaning of the wording of the World Heritage Convention can somehow be morphed to say that construction of massive entrance trenches inside the World Heritage Site is OK!
It’s to be hoped that a conference billed as a celebration of the WHS and the protection it has enjoyed won’t be used as a platform to suggest that profoundly damaging it is valid. It isn’t!
“Unlike the ‘International Style’ of modernism, today’s International Architecture considers much broader issues: pedagogic requirements, topographical conditions, climatic-sensitive design, the size and needs of real communities, multiculturalism, genuine respect for the cultural concerns of city and world inhabitants, the respect for the world’s limited resources, and an advanced thinking toward a real Green Design and ecological sustainability.”
Part of the Stonehenge tunnel lobby has been tweeting this scary image, apparently showing how desperately a tunnel is needed….
The millions who don’t know the area might think the traffic flows up the hill and goes right by the stones. Trouble is, the image on Twitter isn’t as wide as the original so doesn’t make it clear that the road up the hill was a minor side road. Here’s the original ….
Rather different, eh? But that’s not all. The image is an old one and the place is nothing like that now because the road up the hill has been closed and turfed over for years! The reality is more like this ….
Hmmm. So FAR less indicative of a pressing need for a tunnel (especially an horrendously damaging short one). We are reminded of our own warning last February “Look out for fibs, foutards, re-interpretations and smokescreens.“
The Journal has been around quite a while and one of the advantages of that is that we can look at our archives and find things which EH, NT et al, those who are trying to say (and DO say) that UNESCO/ICOMOS think a short tunnel would be spiffing, would rather everyone would forget.
Here’s a beauty from exactly 11 years ago, in July 2005:
"Heritage Action welcomes the news that the A303 improvement scheme that threatened the loss of archaeology and further intrusion into the surroundings of Stonehenge has been withdrawn. ICOMOS, the International Council on Monuments and Sites, has also welcomed the news. They say: "We believe that the review announced by the Minister allows time for serious consideration to be given to alternative schemes for upgrading the A303 that do not involve cutting across the heart of the World Heritage Site".
Some say EH should have tackled solstice overcrowding long ago. Still, this year they finally did, imposing both a parking charge and an alcohol ban. It seems to have produced less overcrowding and less misbehaviour. Might they conclude that decisive management works better than endless negotiations?
Our friend spent the last year on the Open Access to Stonehenge Facebook Group, calling for a fresh start and a letter to EH saying: “We recognise that the welfare and dignity of the monument is paramount. We would like to enter into discussions to optimise access on the above bases.” Sadly (with a few exceptions) this was greeted with hostility (and accusations he was an EH or police spy!) and he was summarily ejected. It’s to be hoped that in future EH will only discuss Stonehenge access with people who accept that the interests of Stonehenge always, always outrank their own!
So, EH, HE, NT and CBA are all willing to support new damage to Stonehenge and to imply UNESCO and ICOMOS support a short tunnel when they’ve said no such thing.
However, the biscuit is most certainly taken by the latest edition of British Archaeology which states that ICOMOS essentially approves the short tunnel “subject to details of portals and cuttings”. As we stressed previously, the truth is that ICOMOS has major concerns about the position of both ends of the tunnel so that absolutely, categorically can’t be taken as evidence that it essentially approves of the proposed length of the tunnel, quite the reverse. In addition, saying that it sees the position of those ends as mere “details” is equally misleading. They are crucial and ICOMOS has most definitely not signaled it thinks otherwise.
We have three questions-cum-accusations for EH, HE, NT, CBA and British Archaeology. 1.) If the short tunnel is such a benefit for Stonehenge how come you weren’t all calling for it until the Government decided it wanted it? 2.) And what was it that convinced you? Have you all, like CBA, “revisited earlier documents”? 3.) If so, that’s fine, but can you please tell the public precisely what you found in them to cause you to change your opinions? Where, in any of the earlier documents or indeed in the current ones published by ICOMOS or UNESCO have you found justification for your support for imposing the following scene on Britain’s and Europe’s leading prehistoric World Heritage Site? Precisely, chapter and verse please.
In Part 1 we highlighted how EH, HE and NT were supporting a short tunnel (and implying ICOMOS were too). Until very recently CBA hadn’t joined them. Indeed, in July 2005 they had signaled they never would, saying they were “resolutely opposed to the proposals for a short tunnel, which removes the A303 from the immediate vicinity of the stones but only at the cost of major damage to the rest of the World Heritage Site.” Now however they’ve “revisited earlier documents” and concluded about the long tunnel that “despite its widely-acknowledged benefits, there may be elements of a reasoned case against it”. Amazing what you can find in documents if you re-visit them!
In fact, their re-visiting has revealed to them reasons to go even further. They now say “burial of the A303 in a tunnel would itself cause some damage, but that solution could eliminate current sources of degradation elsewhere in the WHS”. That’s pivotal, for it endorses the central contention of EH et al that there’s such a thing as “beneficial damage” at Stonehenge and hence plays into the hands of the short tunnel lobby with a clarity it could only have dreamed about.
Also like EH et al they cite UNESCO in support of their revised stance: “UNESCO policy now advises that WHS management should ‘embrace initiatives that deliver mutual benefits to the property and its surroundings that may not seem essential to the protection of the OUV, but may prove important in the long run because they tie the property into its context in a positive and enduring way, thus favouring its long-term survival”. However, that UNESCO document (Managing Cultural World Heritage) is vastly more complex and nuanced than that and deserves better than cherry-picking. For instance, it also says “The link between heritage and sustainable development is interpreted in different ways, depending on the specific perspectives of the various players, and a certain degree of ambiguity exists”
To put it gently, UNESCO has NOT said it supports a short tunnel at Stonehenge and it is wrong to say it has. Nor should it be said, as CBA has, that any damage should be “minimal”. That sounds virtuous, but in truth it’s a surrender to the central agenda of the short tunnel lobby. Surely damage should simply be opposed, as the Stonehehenge Alliance has, not offered for negotiation? What has the Government’s wish to build a short tunnel got to do with CBA’s previous resolute opposition to such a thing?
22 years ago (at an International Conference mounted by English Heritage and the National Trust) Sir Angus Stirling, Director General of the National Trust, spoke for both organisations, saying: “We have concluded that ….
Yet now their successors say a short tunnel will do. It makes no sense, for those “essential requirements” haven’t changed and never can. So we have to conclude that what has changed is the willingness of the two organisations to support breaching those requirements. Worse, there are efforts to paint ICOMOS as supporting a short tunnel too. However, the post-visit report from ICOMOS contained several crucial phrases which really can’t be spun as supportive of damage to Stonehenge’s “Outstanding Universal Value” ……
So the unspun reality is that ICOMOS has major concerns about the position of both ends of the tunnel and that must mean it also has major concerns about the length of the tunnel. That’s plain trigonometry and flies in the face of the public messages coming from EH, HE and NT.