|27 January 2006
Stonehenge road 'a risk to birds'
Alternatives to an underground road tunnel at Stonehenge could threaten the recovery of one of Britain's rarest birds, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has warned. The society said proposals for two overground routes would destroy nesting and roosting sites of the secretive stone curlew, which only has two UK strongholds, one of which is the area surrounding the Stonehenge World Heritage Site. It said the plans would also harm prospects for more than 25 other bird species and 14 butterfly species.
Tony Richardson, director of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds' south west region, said: "A completely new road through the Stonehenge site is unthinkable, not only because of its obvious archaeological value but also because of the public outcry it will spark amongst the millions of people who value Britain's wildlife. Approval for any overground route will make a mockery of the government's desire to get this mysterious and vulnerable bird back on its feet".
The Highways Agency has raised its estimate of tunnel costs from £284 million to £470m blaming complications that will make tunneling more difficult. A number of alternatives are likely to be published today including re-routing of the A303 over-ground instead, either north or south of Stonehenge. The southern route would destroy two-thirds of the RSPB's Normanton Down Reserve and split the remainder, reducing its value to wildlife. The reserve is part of the Stonehenge World Heritage Site and boasts Britain's most important Bronze Age barrow cemetery. The site is also an invaluable feeding ground for stone-curlews before they leave on migration. The northern option would run close to the Salisbury Plain Special Protection Area (SPA), a site protected by European wildlife laws. The road scheme would damage the potential of that land for increasing stone-curlew numbers.
The RSPB believes the government should not consider the northern or southern over-ground routes as viable options and hopes that the review process will lead to the adoption of route less damaging for the area's wildlife.
Tony Richardson said: 'Future generations will thank the government of today if it safeguards the Stonehenge area from the irreversible destruction that an over-ground road will cause. Such a road would be an unforgivable addition to the threats that many species already face.'
Sources: RSPB Public Relations Department, Life Style Extra (23 January 2006)
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