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25 August 2005
Concerns about Silbury Hill restoration plans

Heritage Action, the group campaigning for the protection of threatened heritage sites, has challenged English Heritageís plans for the future of Silbury Hill in Wiltshire (England). The largest prehistoric mound in Europe, Silbury Hill was built between 2800 and 2000 BCE but in May 2000 a large hole appeared after a period of heavy rainfall made an old excavation shaft collapse. In a report issued on July 18 2005 English Heritage outlined their plan to repair the damage by re-entering the mound through a tunnel from a previous excavation. They would then remove the existing collapse and inadequate backfill in the tunnel and backfill it properly.
     In response to these proposals, however, Heritage Action has called on English Heritage to explain its decision. "On the basis of the risk assessment that English Heritage has presented, tunnelling appears to be by far the least appropriate of the repair options," said the pressure group in a statement on its website.
     Heritage Action said that if tunnelling is proven by engineers to be the best way to tackle the problem then it would accept this solution, however they expressed their concerns about this approach. "If career-boosting research is the 'treasure' to be won by selecting the most damaging solution, then our generation would be no better than the treasure-seeking vandals of old whose tunnels caused the problem," it said. The campaign group has called for clarification of the reasoning behind the plans and a public consultation meeting.
     Heritage Action believe an alternative technique called grouting has not been fully explored. Nigel Swift from the group explained: "It may not completely fill it but it is a minor problem compared to the damage that tunnelling could cause. The detailed data which they have published on the relative merits and the relative damage arising from each of the options suggests very strongly that tunnelling will cause the most collateral damage."
     English Heritage said they would look into Heritage Actionís concerns although they were unable to make an immediate comment.

Source: Article by Graham Spicer for 24 Hour Museum (22 August 2005)

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