Supporters have kindly forwarded standard replies from their MPs to their concerns. It is important that MPs should be correctly informed about the proposals, rather than repeating standard Government spin on them.

Should you wish to respond to an unsatisfactory reply from your MP,  we give below our suggested responses to typical statements that you might like to use.  You can include relevant references as well.

MPs’ typical statements are in green.

  • The A303/358/30 upgrades will create a new, high quality dual carriageway road to the South West. The A303 Amesbury to Berwick Down (Stonehenge tunnel scheme) is an important part of the wider project.

Only three of eight schemes proposed to achieve the ambition of an Expressway to the South West have been brought forward to date, of which the A303 Stonehenge scheme is one. [Reference 1]

This scheme has already given rise to serious problems, not least its low to poor value for money. These problems, along with rising costs and only partial corridor upgrade, are highlighted in the Reports of the National Audit Office (20 May 2019) and the Public Accounts Committee (3 July 2019). [References 2 and 3]

  • The tunnel scheme will help to generate economic growth and opportunities by enhancing connections between the South East and the South West. At the same time, by reducing congestion and improving safety on the A303 it will have a positive knock-on effect by removing rat-running in local villages.

There is strong evidence to show that predicted economic growth in the South West as a result of road widening was based in part on biased surveys; while aims for economic growth from road widening generally are unrealistic. [Reference 4]

The A303 Stonehenge scheme, as only part of an incomplete and incompletely funded tranche of road improvements, would not reduce congestion on the A303. It would simply move congestion episodes further to the South West. Online congestion maps show that intermittent A303 congestion, mainly related to holiday traffic, is insignificant compared with regular daily congestion elsewhere in the South West, e.g., Salisbury, Bristol and Exeter. 

Rat-running would become a more serious problem with the tunnel in place, owing to necessary closures and drivers who would divert, preferring not to use the tunnel.

Furthermore, recent advice to Government on the implications of Coronavirus and climate change from the Institute of Civil Engineers and the Office of Road and Rail is that the current roads investment strategy should urgently be reviewed. [References 5 and 6]

  • There is also a strong case for the scheme on environmental grounds, as the tunnel will enable the reinstatement of gentle rolling chalk downland. This will enhance biodiversity and allow wildlife to move more freely.

There is no case for the scheme on environmental grounds. It would permanently desecrate large tracts of the exceptional archaeological landscape of the World Heritage Site (WHS). Road construction and operation would impact adversely on the nesting and feeding habits of Annex 1 protected species Stone Curlew [Reference 5] and Great Bustard, and there is a strong likelihood of contamination of the River Avon Special Area of Conservation.

There are serious questions about the Governments commitments to carbon emission reduction in relation to this and other infrastructure schemes. [Reference 6]

  • In addition, the tunnel will support the cultural heritage of the area. It will remove the sight and noise of traffic around Stonehenge, and the north and south parts of the World Heritage Site will be reunited, making it easier to explore and enjoy the whole landscape.

The tunnel would destroy archaeological remains and key interrelationships between monuments in their landscape setting. 

The scheme is condemned by UNESCO in its present form [Reference 7] and, if implemented, might lead to loss of World Heritage status.

The noise of traffic would still be heard at Stonehenge while both noise and sight of traffic would blight the wider WHS and its setting. Substantial lengths of four-lane highway in deep cuttings would entirely separate north and south over almost half of the WHS. Most of the southern part of the WHS is privately-owned farmland, accessible only via byways: the situation existing at present would not change.

A key question for all UK MPs remains however: Will the UK Government continue to allow the protection of our World Heritage Sites to be compromised?

We have prepared a briefing for MPs which can be downloaded here.

REFERENCES

[1] See Figure 1 in “Creating an Expressway to the South West” https://highwaysengland.citizenspace.com/cip/a303-stonehenge/supporting_documents/S160529%20A303%20Creating%20an%20Expressway%20to%20the%20South%20West%20DEC%2023.pdf

[2] Improving the A303 between Amesbury and Berwick Down, National Audit Office, 20 May 2019 https://www.nao.org.uk/report/south-west-road-improvements-and-the-stonehenge-tunnel/

[3] Timetable and viability of Stonehenge tunnel at risk, Transport Infrastructure South West Report, Public Accounts Committee, 3 July 2019 https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/public-accounts-committee/news-parliament-2017/transport-infrastructure-south-west-report-published-17-19/

[4]  See, for example, CPRE’s March 2017 publication https://www.cpre.org.uk/resources/the-end-of-the-road-challenging-the-road-building-consensus/.

[5] See response from RSPB to Highways England ‘s consultation in 2018 https://stonehengealliance.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/RSPB-response-to-statutory-consultation-9.4.18.pdf

[6] See: Heathrow third runway Judgement concerning UK climate change emission targets: The Guardian, 27 February 2020 https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/feb/27/heathrow-third-runway-ruled-illegal-over-climate-change

[7] 43rd World Heritage Committee in Baku, 2019 https://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/7543f

 

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