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30 January 2005
Stonehenge: what happened to the tunnel plans?

The future of Britain's most famous monument is under threat because plans to divert traffic from the landmark may be lost in "bureaucratic long grass".  The National Trust is calling on the Government to press ahead with a tunnel on the A303 in Wiltshire, but has admitted it fears the project might be shelved.
     Fiona Reynolds, director general of the National Trust, has now written an open letter to the Transport Secretary Alistair Darling protesting against delays and confusion over the long-awaited road scheme. The letter said: "There is now a real risk that final decisions will not properly address the international heritage and cultural importance of Stonehenge."
     Thousands of cars pass near the world famous site every day, and the National Trust insists a tunnel is needed so Stonehenge can be "free from the blight of traffic and reunited with its surrounding lands cape". A public inquiry into the complicated situation finished in May, but the report has still to be finished despite early predictions it would be completed by September.
     The National Trust also fears a recent decision to designate the A303 a route of regional rather than national importance will mean Stonehenge becomes a lower priority in the Government's transport plans. If the road is not built, ambitious plans submitted to Salisbury District Council by English Heritage for a new visitor centre at the monument may also be scrapped.
      A spokeswoman for the Department for Transport said that until it received the planning inspector's report "the ball is not in our court" and no further action can be taken She added: "The decision to classify the A303 as a regional road makes absolutely no difference to the decision making process. We are not downgrading it in any way" The Planning Inspectorate, which is carrying out the report, promised that its completion was "imminent".

Source: Western Daily Press (29 January 2005)

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