A tunnel past Stonehenge will be dug largely along the route of the existing A303, the government has announced.

12 09 2017

Stonehenge tunnel route altered to protect winter solstice view

Previously it was planned to go south of the stones but there were concerns this would intrude on the view of the setting sun at the winter solstice.

How Stonehenge could be viewed if the tunnel is built

Historic England, the National Trust and English Heritage said “if designed with care”, this would “restore peace and tranquillity” to the landscape.

But campaign groups have called for a “complete rethink” to the plan.

They fear the work will mean the area will lose World Heritage Status after Unesco, the organisation that decides on such sites, said the tunnel should be “reconsidered”.

Unesco has previously backed the option for a bypass to be built.

What is new in this plan?

  • A tunnel that is “at least” 1.8m (2.9km) long beneath the World Heritage site
  • The western tunnel entrance will move 50 metres further away from the stones
  • A new bypass to the north of Winterbourne Stoke
  • A new flyover at the Countess Roundabout – on the eastern side of the tunnel
  • Junctions to the A345 and A360 at either end of the tunnel

Read the full story in on the BBC NEWS website

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The Knotty Problem of the A303 and Stonehenge.

16 03 2017

For over 30 years people have been trying to come up with a solution to the problem of the A303 road that runs past Stonehenge. It’s a stretch of single carriageway road with a dual carriageway at either end. As a result it’s a traffic bottleneck, especially during holiday season, and people slow down to take a picture of Stonehenge as they drive by.

A number of options have been proposed – from upgrading the single carriageway road into a dual carriageway on the existing route, to a tunnel to hide an upgraded road from view. Tunnels have been suggested that range in length from 2km to 4.5km constructed either as “cut and cover” or “bored”.

Over 50 alternate routes – some that take the road entirely out of the World Heritage Site – have been put forward, so many that the map showing them all is called the Spaghetti Diagram.

A303routes
Most recently, a 2.9km long bored tunnel has been proposed which would run about 200m south of the existing A303. The tunnel would be below the archaeological layer, well away from Stonehenge itself and remove the view, noise and fumes of traffic from the immediate vicinity of the monument.

You’d think everyone would be delighted. They’re not.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site (WHS) runs from the A345 road in the east to the A360 road in the west, a distance of 5.4km. A tunnel of 2.9km clearly isn’t long enough to span its entire width, and this means that the tunnel portals must be dug into the ground within the WHS itself.

On top of that, new lengths of road and new junctions must also be built within the WHS – at the western and eastern end of the tunnel – to link up with the existing roads.

When the Stonehenge and Avebury WHS was inscribed in 1986 they were recognised as Cultural Sites. At the time, there was no designation of “Cultural Landscape” but the inscription said:

Criterion (iii): The complexes of monuments at Stonehenge and Avebury provide an exceptional insight into the funerary and ceremonial practices in Britain in the Neolithic and Bronze Age. Together with their settings and associated sites, they form landscapes without parallel.

The proposal to destroy large areas of the Stonehenge landscape with new roads and tunnel portals is what has upset a lot of people.

The Stonehenge Alliance is a group that represents the views of a number of organisations, their view is that the tunnel is too short and would cause “irreparable damage to the WHS”.

SA Leaflet

ICOMOS is an important heritage advisory group to UNESCO and it firmly objects to the current option for a 2.9km tunnel for the substantial negative and irreversible impact it would have on the attributes of Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the World Heritage site (WHS) of Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated sites.”

A group of 21 leading archaeologists who have worked in the Stonehenge landscape over decades says that the proposal has dreadful consequences for the world’s most famous archaeological site and its landscape setting.

The list of objecting organisations goes on and on – the Council for British Archaeology, the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society, the Prehistoric Society, the Campaign to Protect Rural England, the Society of Antiquaries, the International Astronomical Union Commission on Heritage and Astronomy….

The National Trust, English Heritage and Historic England have also expressed very strong concerns over the positioning of the western portal and its approach road.

Historic England said The current location is very close to the Normanton Down barrow cemetery, one of the best preserved and most significant Neolithic and Bronze Age cemeteries in the UK. The portal would certainly have a significant adverse impact upon the setting of this barrow group and upon the OUV of the WHS.

The National Trust’s chief archaeologist for the WHS says, in an appendix to the Historic England report, The western portal is very close to the Normanton Down Barrow Group while both surface routes have adverse visual and aural impacts on the surrounding Winterbourne Stoke, Normanton Down, Lake and Diamond Groups (nearly a quarter of the identified key attribute groups).

The proposal actually places the western tunnel portal directly on the Winter Solstice Sunset line as seen from Stonehenge, and the new road leading away from it runs along this alignment.

Western Portal Trenching SMR Montage

Astronomers have viewed this idea as absolutely crazy.

Prof. Clive Ruggles, a leading archaeoastronomer and key figure in the interpretation of astronomical sightlines of ancient monuments across the world says there are serious concerns that the integrity of the SW sightline from Stonehenge could be permanently destroyed, eliminating forever the possibility of visitors to Stonehenge once again seeing the winter solstice sun setting behind the distant natural horizon along the axis of the monument.

The public consultation for the initial route proposals finished on the 5th March 2017. Highways England now have several months of work ahead of them to refine their proposal to take into account the more than 7,000 submissions they’ve received so far.

Local residents, holidaymakers and hauliers have suffered traffic problems along the A303 for over 30 years, so a solution that speeds up traffic is desperately sought by Government.

What’s crucial to bear in mind is that whatever solution is implemented, unless a route entirely outside the WHS is found, it will have a permanent impact on the setting of one of the most important landscapes in the world, and that we all have a responsibility to the future not to make a terrible mistake.

Article by guest blogger and local Stonehenge historian Simon Banton

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A303 Stonehenge expressway. Contractors called to tunnel meeting: 12th October

5 10 2016

Highways England is holding a market engagement day next week for contractors interested in bidding to build the A303 improvement project by Stonehenge.

Stonehenge Tunnel Project

The ambitious project is expected to cost anywhere between £300m and £1.3bn depending on the final route selected.

A joint venture of WS Atkins and Ove Arup is designing a scheme to improve the A303 between Amesbury and Berwick Down in Wiltshire. The project includes a tunnel near Stonehenge and a bypass of the village of Winterbourne Stoke.

The A303 at Stonehenge currently severs the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site (WHS) and is one of the last remaining single-carriageway bottlenecks between London and Cornwall.  The proposed scheme would create an expressway standard dual carriageway route.

The scheme is currently in the Options phase, with a preferred route announcement planned for summer 2017 and a DCO application planned for summer 2018. Subject to statutory procedures, construction work should start by April 2020.

Highways England intends to appoint a contractor on an early contractor involvement (ECI) basis, initially to assist with the DCO application and then to design, build and maintain the scheme.

On the project page on the Highways England website, the value of the scheme is somewhat vaguely put at between £275m and £1,321m.

The market engagement day takes place in Bristol on 12th October 2016 to provide more information on the scheme and the procurement strategy. Those wishing to attend should email simon.chohan@highwaysengland.co.uk for the time and location of the event.

Links:
Race starts for £1.3bn Stonehenge expressway
Contractors called to Stonehenge tunnel meeting

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UNESCO report backs Stonehenge tunnel plans

5 05 2016

Plans to build a tunnel under Stonehenge have been welcomed in an influential report.

303-road

The A303 past Stonehenge is a highly congested route

The report by UNESCO and the International Council on Monuments and Sites recognised the benefits the 1.8m (2.9km) project.

In 2014 the government announced it would commit to building a tunnel, removing the A303 from the landscape.

Historic England, the National Trust and English Heritage also support the plans.

The report highlighted the scheme’s potential to become a “best practice case” for a World Heritage Site.

It said the scheme must “both protect the outstanding universal value” of the site and also “benefit road users”.

303congestion

At the moment the congested A303 cuts through the middle of the area.

Helen Ghosh, director general of the National Trust, said the report “recognises the unmissable opportunity” the government’s road improvement scheme offers to address “the blight of the existing A303”.

Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England, welcomed the report but said “sensitive design” would be needed.

Kate Mavor, chief executive of English Heritage, added: “Provided that it is designed and built in the right way, a tunnel would reunite the wider landscape around the ancient stones, helping people to better understand and enjoy them.”

FULL STORY: UNESCO report backs Stonehenge tunnel plans – BBC News

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