Third of three reactions to Highways England proposals for a short tunnel
Reaction #3: Transport and planning
The A303 widening is a road scheme that fails to respect the special requirements of a WHS, owing to Government demands for affordability, achievability and value for money. An enormous amount of money (some £1.4bn) is to be spent on the road ‘improvement’, most of it on the tunnel.
The Government’s aim is to improve journey times to the South West to stimulate economic and housing growth. It is generally accepted, however, that increasing road capacity encourages more traffic. Highways England in 2014 expected the increase to be at least 20% for the A303 scheme. Traffic congestion could return in a few years.
A303 widening and induced traffic would have as yet unknown impacts on the wider road network. Integrated transport for most people is either diminishing or non-existent whilst peak time congestion in local towns and cities is far worse than at Stonehenge, where queues occur mainly at weekends and holiday times, typically in July and August on a Friday between 11am and 6pm. The figure below shows typical seasonal and hourly intermittent pattern.
The local problems of rat-running through villages could be tackled now and smart measures to discourage drivers from using the A303 at busy times could also be introduced before irreversible steps are taken to spend a fortune on irreparably damaging a WHS for seasonal and intermittent traffic problems.
Planning policy considerations
The WHS was designated by UNESCO as being of Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) for its archaeological remains of the Neolithic and Bronze Ages. A Statement of OUV for the WHS can be seen here. There is a raft of protective planning policy for the WHS within Government and local planning policy; for example, Wiltshire Core Strategy, Policy C59 states:
Wiltshire Core Policy 59
The Stonehenge, Avebury and associated sites World Heritage Site
“The Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the World Heritage Site will be sustained by:
- Giving precedence to the protection of the World Heritage Site and its setting
- Development not adversely affecting the World Heritage Site and its attributes of OUV. This includes the physical fabric, character, appearance, setting or views into or out of the World Heritage Site
- Seeking opportunities to support and maintain the positive management of the World Heritage Site through development that delivers improved conservation, presentation and interpretation and reduces the negative impacts of roads,traffic and visitor pressure
- Requiring developments to demonstrate that full account has been taken of their impact upon the World Heritage Site and its setting. Proposals will need to demonstrate that the development will have no individual, cumulative or consequential adverse effect upon the site and its OUV. Consideration of opportunities for enhancing the World Heritage Site and sustaining its OUV should also be demonstrated. This will include proposals for climate change mitigation and renewable energy schemes.”
The widely agreed WHS Management Plan is a material consideration, its ‘vision’, below, expressing the intention to safeguard the whole WHS and its setting.
Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site Management Plan: Vision
“The Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site is universally important for its unique and dense concentration of outstanding prehistoric monuments and sites which together form a landscape without parallel. We will work together to care for and safeguard this special area and provide a tranquil, rural and ecologically diverse setting for it and its archaeology. This will allow present and future generations to explore and enjoy the monuments and their landscape setting more fully. We will also ensure that the special qualities of the World Heritage Site are presented, interpreted and enhanced where appropriate, so that visitors, the local community and the whole world can better understand and value the extraordinary achievements of the prehistoric people who left us this rich legacy. We will realise the cultural, scientific and educational potential of the World Heritage Site as well as its social and economic benefits for the community.”
The World Heritage Convention is also critical. In September 2015, the Government restated it’s commitment to Article 4 of the Convention, which reads:
World Heritage Convention: Article 4
“ 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.”
Our Government should respect its own commitments, guidance and policy in dealing with a World Heritage Site, and ensure that both the site and its setting are protected from damaging road engineering.
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.