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Heritage bodies urge Stonehenge tunnel redesign

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Campaigners have demanded a redesign of the proposed tunnel under the Stonehenge World Heritage Site after new images were released 

Highways England this week published its latest vision for the 2.9km section of submerged road close to the famous stones in a consultation document for the £1.6 billion A303 upgrade scheme.

These show how drivers between London and the South West would experience elements of the 13km dual carriageway proposed between Amesbury and Berwick Down.

But Historic England, English Heritage and the National Trust immediately raised ‘concern’ over the plans for the Stonehenge tunnel’s western portal.

In a joint statement, they said the tunnel entrance was close to the Normanton Down barrow group, a series of Neolithic and Early Bronze Age ceremonial and funerary monuments.

‘We will work with Highways England to find an alignment and design for the western portal that is appropriate for this internationally important place and protects its outstanding universal value,’ said the group.

Meanwhile, the Stonehenge Alliance, a group of non-governmental organisations and individuals that opposes the site’s development, said it was ‘shocked’ by the plans, which would cause ‘major and irreversible harm’ to the Stonehenge site.

‘To the east, a flyover would descend beside the renowned Mesolithic site of Blick Mead,’ it said in a statement. ‘To the west, a major underpass and interchange would be constructed close to possibly the most important group of upstanding prehistoric burial monuments in the country.’

Highways England’s consultation document insisted there would be ‘no change in the existing road alignment as it passes Blick Mead’. It added that the western portal had been located ’to minimise impact on the Normanton Down barrow group and to ensure there is no intrusion onto the alignment of the winter solstice viewed from Stonehenge’.

When the plans for a tunnel re-emerged around three years ago they proved popular with architects. Stephen Quinlan, project director for Denton Corker Marshall’s 2013 Stonehenge visitor centre scheme, called it a ‘great idea’ and Roddy Langmuir of Cullinan Studio, whose practice worked on numerous proposals for the site in the early 1990s, said it was ‘a fantastic move’.

Highways England project director Derek Parody said this week: ‘We are proposing a tunnel to remove the A303 and its traffic from a large part of the Stonehenge landscape. Reconnecting the iconic stones with surrounding ancient monuments will help restore the natural setting and tranquillity lost for generations.’

The consultation will run until 6 April, with a planning application expected by the end of this year.

The overall A303 upgrade scheme is scheduled to start on site in 2021.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • The A303 should stay as it is. When consideration is given to the enormous number of people who are content to do a "Drive By" and thus relieve the monument site of much wear and tear, the necessity and gross expense of road modification becomes questionable.
    How much did that strange new visitor centre cost???!!!

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  • It seems to me that any redevelopment of this section of the A303 would likely considerably disturb ancient monuments, and this will push the cost up even further. On top of this, as Ian pointed out, many people are happy to view the site from their cars, avoiding wear and tear to the stones and their immediate environs. Furthermore, seeing the monument from the road allows people who wouldn’t otherwise stop the opportunity to view one of Britain’s most important ancient sites. Though the A303 is a horrible road to use (I commuted between Kent and Somerset on the road for a while, it can be very slow!), I think there are more important bottlenecks that could be more efficiently improved. Or better, £1.6bn could be spent improving the train lines to the south east, this relieving congestion and reducing emissions.

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