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15 May 2004
Stonehenge road inquiry ends

The wrangling over the future of the roads near Stonehenge has come to an end, after almost three months of hearings. Since the inquiry began on February 17, Inspector Michael Ellison has heard arguments supporting the construction of a 2.1 km tunnel under the World Heritage site from the Highways Agency and English Heritage, along with heated objections from the National Trust, environmental campaigners and archaeological groups. Mr Ellison has also studied eight official alternative routes for the A303, which include converting the current road into a dual carriageway, extending the tunnel, and rerouting the stretch to either the north or south of the stones.
     More than 100 witnesses, including Druids, concerned residents, noise and light pollution experts and anti-road protesters, have given evidence at the inquiry, and thousands of documents, letters and maps were received. The inspector has also been on site visits to Stonehenge and its surrounding roads and landscape, and will now consider the masses of evidence before compiling his report, due to be published in the autumn. Mr Ellison's findings will include a recommendation that will be put before the deputy prime minister, John Prescott, who will make the final decision on the future of the world famous landmark.
     If the tunnel gets the green light, 70m of the 200m bill will be met by heritage sources and the department of culture, media and sport. The Highways Agency said the project, which includes a bypass for Winterbourne Stoke, could begin as early as next spring. It predicts it will take three-and-a-half years to complete, and will affect between 22,000 and 33,000 motorists a day. However if Mr Prescott rejects the published scheme, the 13-year row over the A303 near Stonehenge looks set to rage long into the future.

Sources: Salisbury Journal & Avon Advertiser, This is Wiltshire (12 May 2004)

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