First of three reactions to Highways England proposals for a short tunnel
Reaction #1: Consultation
The A303 plans were published on Highways England’s consultation page on 12 January with booklets, helpful fact sheets, impressive videos taking you along the routes, technical documents and some very large file maps. For all that material there is but one option proposed for the World Heritage Site (WHS): the short tunnel of 1.8 miles (2.9km) across the 3.4 mile-wide (5.4km) UNESCO-designated landscape, with a choice of a northern or southern bypass for Winterbourne Stoke village west of the WHS, at a total cost of c.£1.4bn.
Our initial reaction has been widely publicised:
The Alliance does not advocate new road building at Stonehenge but accepts the need to improve the tranquillity and appearance of the WHS and its setting. If Government insists on widening the A303 by means of a tunnel across the WHS it must be sufficiently long to avoid any further damage to the WHS and its setting. This scheme that is now being proposed is a major disaster for the WHS.
We are considering the detail and its implications and will share our thoughts with our followers shortly. Meanwhile, our reaction to the consultation process is set out below.
- Highways England has been instructed by its client, the UK Government, only to design and develop a short tunnel. A longer, more appropriate tunnel was apparently “unaffordable” and therefore not pursued.
- The consultation on one of this country’s most complex road schemes, with major impacts, extends to 5 March 2017. A seven-week period is not long enough for local organisations to consult with their members,or for local residents, traders and others to fully understand the scheme’s implications.
- Owing to the international significance of the WHS, a myriad of individuals, professional bodies and specialist interest groups and organisations and their members, including those of the National Trust and English Heritage, ought to be fully informed and have their say – both in the UK and abroad. Nevertheless, a final decision will be given in summer 2017.
- The published programme of public involvement does not include stakeholder events outside South Wiltshire other than one in London for members of the Society of Antiquaries.
- Why not hold exhibitions in Hampshire, Somerset, Devon and Cornwall? Should not visitors to the UK be consulted? The Stonehenge Alliance has followers from all over the world. Currently, our top 10 non-UK followers who would wish to have a say are from Australia, Canada, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Netherlands, Serbia and Spain. Should there not be events at our premier tourist site at the Visitor Centre? At Heathrow Airport? St Pancras International? Via tour operators or online events?
A common view already expressed, see for instance BBC Points West, is that this scheme is an unjustified extravagance when lack of funding is crippling the NHS. Many others do not want to be deprived of a view as they pass the monument.
The task of participating in consultation about the problems and possible solutions is enormous and we need to make the best of the current opportunity. A good start is that concerned people are writing to UNESCO on our website and continue to sign our petition which currently stands at over 23,500 signatures. Typical comments on the petition site are
“This site is of national and global importance. We need to cherish and protect it for future generations.” “Because risking damage to such an important historical site to make car journeys quicker and easier is ridiculous. There are other routes and other ways to travel.” “Stop this madness now!!” “The tunnel would be a travesty; we would in years to come be labelled as the generation who vandalised the country’s heritage. That this work is even being considered is deeply shameful.”
Our Chairman, George McDonic, said:
“The recent archaeological discoveries around Stonehenge underline the obvious importance of safeguarding the whole of this ancient landscape for future generations. We have been greatly encouraged by worldwide support for our campaign.”
It is vital that as many people as possible participate, attend an event, read through the documents and complete the form before 5 March. We will continue to inform through future blogs.
What can you do to help?
1. Please respond to the A303 Stonehenge consultation here by 5 March 2017. For further information, maps and documentation see Highways England’s consultation page here.
2. If you haven’t already done so, please, sign our petition and encourage your friends to do the same.
KINDLY NOTE: Since setting up the petition, we have learned more about the recently discovered Mesolithic site at Blick Mead. This has led us to consider that if Government insists on a tunnel under the WHS, it must be long enough to avoid the WHS and its setting altogether. This would be in line with planning policy and World Heritage Convention safeguards. We cannot change the wording but our intention to avoid further damage is clearly stated in the petition.
- Please write to UNESCO and, if possible, to the National Trust as well, expressing your concerns. Editing your responses in your own words will be more effective.
Reaction #2: A303 tunnel impacts on archaeology and ecology
Reaction #3: Transport and planning