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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Celebrating 30 Years of World Heritage at Stonehenge and Avebury on 19th November 2016 #WHS30

12 11 2016

This year Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site is celebrating 30 years since its inscription on to the World Heritage list in 1986.  A number of events are taking place throughout this year.

whs-s

The Stonehenge and Avebury WHS Coordination Unit, with the support of their partners, is holding a 30th anniversary conference on 19 and 20 November 2016 to celebrate the many aspects of the World Heritage Site and the gains made over the past 30 years.

On Saturday 19 November in the Ceres Hall, the Corn Exchange, Devizes, a number of speakers including Dr Serge Cassen (University of Nantes), Dr Alison Sheridan (National Museums of Scotland), Dr Heather Sebire (English Heritage), Prof Tim Darvill (University of Bournemouth), Dr Josh Pollard (University of Southampton), Prof Vince Gaffney (University of Bradford) will be joining us to examine developments in conservation, changes in our knowledge through research and archaeology, the impact on culture and how Stonehenge fits into the European and British culture at that time.

CONFERENCE FINAL PROGRAMME

There will be a panel discussion to think about what advances in our knowledge there might be in the next 30 years as well as opportunities to find out about the work of the key partners in helping to manage the World Heritage Site.

On Sunday 20 November there will be limited opportunities for delegates to attend exclusive expert led tours to both Stonehenge and Avebury and to The Salisbury Museum and Wiltshire Museum to explore their related collections.

Tickets are open to all and must be booked in advance through Eventbrite.

This event is supported by Historic England and Wiltshire Council

There’s still time to book your tickets for the conference on 19th November.

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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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NEW INFORMATION LEAFLET ON THE STONEHENGE AND AVEBURY WHS

19 02 2016

A new information leaflet has been produced by the World Heritage Site Coordination Unit to help to explain what a World Heritage Site is, why Stonehenge and Avebury is designated as a World Heritage Site and how it is managed. The leaflet also outlines the priorities of the World Heritage Site Management Plan.

Many people know about the important role that English Heritage Trust at Stonehenge and Front-cover-pic-154x300the National Trust at Avebury and in the Stonehenge Landscape play in managing the key monuments within the WHS but how the UK Government carries out the obligations of the World Heritage Convention 1972 are less well known.  This leaflet is a brief explanation of how the two landscapes of the WHS are managed.

The leaflet will be distributed at key community sites and available when the Coordination Unit attends meetings and events.

If you require copies of the leaflet please contact the World Heritage Site Coordination Unit.  A web version of the leaflet can be found here.  Stonehenge & Avebury WHS web version

The leaflet has been produce with support from Historic England.

More information on the Stonehenge and Avebury WHS website.

excerpt-of-leaflet-300x262

Extract from the Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites
WHS Management Plan 2015

The Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site is
universally important for its unique and dense concentration of
outstanding prehistoric monuments and sites which together
form a landscape without parallel. We will work together to
care for and safeguard this special area and its archaeology and
will provide a more tranquil, rural and ecologically diverse
setting for it and its archaeology. This will allow present and
future generations to explore and enjoy the monuments and
their landscape setting more fully. We will also ensure that the
special qualities of the World Heritage Site are presented,
interpreted and enhanced where appropriate, so that visitors,
the local community and the whole world can better
understand and value the extraordinary achievements of the
prehistoric people who left us this rich legacy. We will realise
the cultural, scientific and educational potential of the World
Heritage Site as well as its social and economic benefits for
the community.

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