Stonehenge tunnel divides opinion

Richard Furlong - City Surveys Group

Home » Stonehenge tunnel divides opinion

Published: 17th January 2017

This Article was Written by: Richard Furlong - City Surveys Group

  


After decades of delay, a controversial tunnel proposal could reunite the Stonehenge landscape.

The dividing road that passes the UNESCO world heritage site, the A303, has been the site of severe and prolonged congestion as curious motorists slow down to take in the landmark.

Under new plans, Highways England has been given the go-ahead for a series of improvements. The A-road will be transformed into the ‘Southwest Expressway’, a dual carriageway, incorporating a 1.8 mile long tunnel.

However, after a string of delays, there is still a bitter division over the impact of the project on the environment.

Calls for improvements were first made in 1989 but have been repeatedly delayed. Now, however, the government has announced its intention to commence work in 2020 with a view to completing the project by 2029.

Residents living nearby have complained about the area becoming ‘clogged, noisy and polluted’ but in the coming weeks those affected will be invited to have their say on the proposal.

Plans include a wider upgrade of the seven-mile single carriageway stretch of the A303, the introduction of a bypass for the village of Winterbourne Stoke and improvements to junctions intersecting the A345 and A360.

Most notable among the plans is the intention to construct a 1.8 mile dual carriageway tunnel near Stonehenge to mask the flow of traffic around the important historic site. The Council for British Archaeology (CBA), whilst not in opposition to the improvements, has suggested the tunnel should be much longer to ensure it does not mar the landscape.

Mike Heyworth, CBA Director, said: “There is no doubt there will be benefits to removing the A303 from the immediate vicinity of Stonehenge but there will be potential damage if the portals are in sensitive locations.

“It is a very sensitive archaeological landscape. Ideally we want it to avoid sensitive areas and to make sure it doesn’t have any impact on views or the setting.”

Celebrity historian, Dan Snow, has also voiced concerns. He said: “Of all our many treasures on these islands, none is more internationally revered than Stonehenge.

“We have recently started to realise that the standing stones are just a beginning, they sit at the heart of the world’s most significant and best preserved stone age landscape. The government’s plans endanger this unique site.

“Around the world we see pictures of our fellow humans smashing the treasures of the past and count ourselves lucky that we live in a country which values its rich history and appreciates what it offers modern Britain. Our heritage helps us understand ourselves, how we got here and where we are going.”

Chris Grayling, Transport Secretary, said: “This government is taking the big decisions for Britain’s future, underlined by our record £15 billion funding for road schemes. This major investment in the South West will transform the A303 and benefit those locally by cutting congestion and improving journey times.

“It will also boost the economy, linking people with jobs and businesses with customers – driving forward our agenda to build a country that works for everyone and not just the privileged few.”

The National Trust (NT) also has also shown faith in the outcome of the project. Helen Ghosh, NT’s Director General, said: “The importance of this announcement today cannot be overstated. After many false starts and challenges, this does for the first time feel like a real opportunity to tackle the blight of the road that dominates the landscape of Stonehenge.”

A consultation will be held between 12 January and 5 March 2017 on the proposals, with invitations sent out to those who will be affected by the plans.


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