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21 March 2004
Archaeologists: the tunnel under Stonehenge is inadequate

Archaeologists have branded the government's 200m plans for a 2.1km tunnel under Stonehenge "inadequate", claiming it would bring "irreversible damage to the World Heritage site". The National Trust has objected to the proposed road tunnel scheme and highlighted that several key modifications - including lengthening the tunnel by 800m - would appear to offer significant advantages over the existing scheme. While applauding the government for its desire to pursue a scheme that would rescue Stonehenge from its present predicament, the Trust does not believe that the current scheme proposed by the Highways Agency is the right solution for Stonehenge or delivers the objectives of the Stonehenge Management Plan. The Trust's objection relates principally to the failure of the proposed scheme to reunite the stone circle and its associated monuments with the rich historic landscape surrounding it.
     However, the Trust highlighted that four modifications to the proposed scheme would do much to reduce or avoid the adverse impacts on the site. These modifications are: a) Moving the proposed western portal approximately 200 metres westwards. b) Moving the proposed eastern portal 600 metres eastwards. c) Using a tunnel boring machine for the construction of the tunnel instead of the presently proposed sprayed concrete lining method. This would significantly ameliorate the potential impacts at Stonehenge Bottom. d) Creating a bridleway instead of a byway along the course of the former A303.
     Locating the proposed tunnel portal further out at either end of the tunnel would produce significant benefits for six archaeological sites, five of which are scheduled and four of which are acknowledged on behalf of the Highways Agency to be important. One of these four sites is part of the Normanton Down Barrow Group and two of the others are adjacent to it.
     The relocation of the proposed eastern portal would also enable the reconnection of the Avenue,  currently severed by the A303 and that would remain so under the proposed scheme. The modifications suggested by the Trust might result in some delay to the construction period. But the Trust believes that in the circumstances pertaining to this uniquely important site, delay would be amply justified.
     Besides, representatives of many of Britain's most respected archaeological organisations echoed the National Trust's demands for a longer tunnel to remove traffic from a larger section of the world-famous beauty spot than the iconic stone circle.
     "Stonehenge was inscribed on the World Heritage list as an entity that has integrity. Some parts of the site cannot have greater value than others." said Susan Denyer, of the International Council on Monuments and Sites UK.
     Speaking for the Council for British Archaeology, the Prehistoric Society and the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society, Brian Davison claimed the joint funding arrangement between the department of media, culture and sport and the Highways Agency for the 2.1km tunnel was a quick-fix solution. "Our objections to the published scheme concern its long-term adverse effects on the Stonehenge World Heritage Site," he said. "We view with horror the prospect, in the event of the scheme being implemented, that the biggest single visible monument in this 5,000-year-old landscape of world value will be an early 21st Century roadway, primarily designed to relieve traffic congestion, the benefits of which cannot be projected beyond 30 years."
     Stonehenge expert Michael Parker-Pearson added: "The length of the proposed tunnel is not satisfactory because of its impact on particular elements of the World Heritage site, notably the group of burial mounds on King Barrow Ridge. The design for the road scheme also seriously compromises the setting of the burial mounds at Longbarrow Crossroads. Furthermore, the proposals represent a missed opportunity to reunite the now sundered Stonehenge Avenue. We consider that the construction of a long bored tunnel, either on the present line or on the green route, is the only acceptable solution."

Sources: Salisbury Journal & Avon Advertiser (17 March 2004), The National Trust (18 March 2004)

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