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27 January 2006
New plans for Stonehenge bypass

The British government published five options for road schemes around the ancient British monument of Stonehenge, including a tunnel under the site rejected as too expensive last year. The circular monument of massive stones in Wiltshire, southwest England, lies between two busy roads, one carrying up to 33,000 vehicles a day.
     Conservationists and government agencies responsible for the site have for years been seeking a way of reducing or diverting the traffic to improve the monument's immediate surroundings. Since 1991, some 50 alternative road routes have been considered, culminating in government approval in 2002 for a scheme to reroute traffic from the busy A303 through a two kilometre tunnel bored under the stone circle. But last July, the Highways Agency was ordered to review the scheme after the estimated cost escalated to £510m.
     As well as the bored tunnel, the five options published for public consultation by the Highways Agency include: A 'cut and cover' tunnel, first rejected in 2002;  new roads further to the north or south of the monument: a 'partial solution' which would retain the A303 but shut the smaller A344 road passing the north side of the monument.
     Conservationists say the tunnel and new road proposals would all cut through the Stonehenge World Heritage Site, damaging a 26 sq km area containing over 400 prehistoric monuments. Archaeologist Kate Fielden, of Stonehenge Alliance, an umbrella body of conservation groups, said the best solution would be a 4.5 km tunnel going under the entire World Heritage site, an option itself rejected on cost grounds in 1996.
     Stephen Ladyman, Minister of State for Transport, said: "The government is committed to improving the A303 past the World Heritage Site at Stonehenge. I hope that everyone with an interest in this important issue will take this opportunity to contribute to the review process." Culture minister David Lammy added: "This review is an important stage in our work. We need to find a solution for the A303 past Stonehenge that is right for the setting of the stones and right for the historic landscape which surrounds them."
     The public consultation period runs from 23 January to 24 April 2006, with public exhibitions being held in Salisbury on 9-11 February 2006 and in London on 17-18 February 2006. A final report based on the consultation is due to be submitted to ministers by early summer 2006.
     
Sources: BBC News, Innovations Report, New Kerala (23 January 2006)

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