|13 January 2003
Stonehenge tunnel approved
Plans for a tunnel through hills near Stonehenge in Wiltshire have been approved. The 1.3-mile tunnel to upgrade the A303 past the famous ring of stones will cost £183m and protect it from heavy traffic, says the government. It is part of the £5.5bn package of transport improvements announced by Transport Secretary Alistair Darling, which also includes widening the A303 to the west of Stonehenge to Ilminster. Mr Darling said: "The World Heritage site at Stonehenge will be enhanced and protected by putting the existing road in a bored tunnel, which will improve safety and congestion."
A spokesperson for Friends of the Earth said: "The tunnel is better than ploughing through a road on a bulldozer." The £183m will be jointly financed by the Highways Agency and heritage sources. The tunnel is expected to be finished in three years, with work starting by 2005.
Sir Neil Cossons, chairman of English Heritage, the body that looks after Stonehenge, said the site would now get the dignified setting it deserved. He said: "The roads are made safer and the core area of the heritage site landscape is reunited." Arts Minister Tessa Blackstone also welcomed the announcement: "It will make possible the construction of a world class visitor centre." But the National Trust was more cautious in its response to the minister's announcement. A statement said: "The Council of the National Trust has previously agreed that it will press for the longest achievable tunnel past Stonehenge. It will be considering all the evidence to assess why the government believes the 1.3-mile tunnel meets that description."
Sources: BBC News (10 December 2002, http://news.bbc.co.uk)
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