Heritage groups have welcomed a revised route for the £1.6 billion upgrade of the A303, which includes a tunnel at least 1.8 miles long under the Stonehenge World Heritage site
The path of the subterranean road has been moved 50m away from the Stonehenge monument to avoid important archaeological sites and intrusion on the view of the setting sun from Stonehenge during the winter solstice.
The route for the planned tunnel – a scheme that has been on the drawing board since 2005 – was modified by project backer Highways England following feedback from a public consultation.
In a joint statement the National Trust, Historic England and English Heritage Trust said they welcomed the decision to change the tunnel route.
The route will ensure the winter solstice alignment will be unspoilt by lights and traffic from the road
‘The Stonehenge World Heritage Site is internationally important, not just for Stonehenge itself but for the unique and rich concentrations of burial mounds and monuments in the landscape,’ read the statement. ‘This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reunite this ancient landscape which is currently severed by a huge volume of road traffic.’
‘The route announced today will ensure the winter solstice alignment will be unspoilt by lights and traffic from the road. We also want to see the globally important archaeology protected, the settings of the ancient burial sites respected and the views between those sites restored. It is now critical to ensure that the benefits of this new route can be realised through careful design and mitigation of archaeological risks, particularly at the western portal of the tunnel and the approach road.’
In January, Council for British Archaeology director Mike Hayworth raised concerns over the initial Stonehenge tunnel proposals as they went out for public consultation.
Despite fears from heritage groups, the proposed underpass has been popular with some leading architects, including Stephen Quinlan, project director at Denton Corker Marshall on the Stonehenge visitor centre scheme, completed in 2013, and Roddy Langmuir of Cullinan Studio, whose practice worked on numerous proposals for the site in the early 1990s.
Langmuir told the AJ: ‘On the whole, this is great news for the Stonehenge landscape, but there are critical areas that can make or break it. The new tunnel will enable amazing walking routes around the monuments that surround Stonehenge and give fantastic views of the stone circle, placing it in context.
‘These circular walks will go close to the tunnel entrances, so the landscape and engineering work here is vitally important so that the experience for the visitor is not undermined.
He suggested that one method to minimise the impact of traffic noise could be ‘proposed incised cuts rather than the wide, grassy banks that are typical of tunnel mouths’. Langmuir added that he looked forward to seeing the detailed proposals for the Stonehenge tunnel.
The new plans were revealed as part of wider revisions to the proposed new link road between Amesbury and Berwick Down, which were published yesterday by transport secretary Chris Grayling.
This road will connect the M3 in the South East with the M5 in the South West and features an 8-mile-long dual carriageway and a new bypass to the north of the village of Winterbourne Stoke.
Grayling said the proposals – a key part of the government’s £15 billion road strategy – would provide a ‘huge boost for the region’ and create 20,000 new jobs and 100,000 new homes.
View details of the preferred route here