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17 December 2006
Highways Agency and English Heritage sign agreement

The British Highways Agency will work with English Heritage to protect the historic environment. English Heritage and the Highways Agency signed an agreement on working together to protect the historic environment. The two bodies will coordinate more closely in future to protect Englandís archaeology, according to the memorandum of understanding signed by Archie Robinson, Chief Executive of the Highways Agency and Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage. "Getting expert advice from English Heritage at early stages of the planning process for transport schemes," said Mr Thurley, "is the single biggest chance that has improved, not just the working relationship between the sectors, but the protection of the historic environment and the smooth running of construction projects."
     The agreement builds on an existing one from 1993 when the Agency took over responsibility for funding cultural heritage work on motorways and trunk roads. Since then, however, policies relating to cultural heritage have changed radically. "Our two organisations have worked together for many years," said Mr Robinson. "Nationally, we have developed joint policies and advice for dealing with cultural issues. Our new memorandum will enable us to support important heritage sites along our road network."
     The new agreement comes at a time when debates still rage over what improvements will be made to the A344 and A303 roads around Stonehenge. If the A303 is to be turned into a dual carriageway, as has been proposed by the Highways Agency, heritage groups, including English Heritage, have called for it to be an underground tunnel. However, predicted costs for this have soared and some argue that both roads should stay as they are. The Highways Agency and heritage advisors are continuing to look for a solution.

Sources: 24 Hour Museum, Wired-Gov (14 December 2006)

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