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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Stonehenge NEWS and updates from the World’s most famous ancient monument.

20 01 2017

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Film promoting Stonehenge tunnel released by public bodies

2 12 2015

A YEAR after the Government announced plans to build a 2.9km tunnel under Stonehenge three public bodies have released a film promoting the benefits of burying the A303.

Film promoting Stonehenge tunnel released by public bodies

Film promoting Stonehenge tunnel released by public bodies

Historic England, the National Trust and English Heritage hope that construction of the tunnel will improve wildlife and nature at the World Heritage Site.

Ian Wilson, Assistant Director of Operations for the National Trust in Dorset and Wiltshire, said: “We really hope the film brings to life the very real benefits that a tunnel could bring to the Stonehenge Landscape, for people and for wildlife.

“A full scheme has yet to be designed, but the Trust supports the Government’s proposals in principle and we are committed to engaging with Highways England and others to ensure that any scheme will be fully and carefully considered and assessed.”

Alex Rennie,Source: Salisbury Journal

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Stonehenge Debate: Mike Parker Pearson at the British Academy – 9th November 2015

2 11 2015

The CBA will be hosting a debate on the future management options for the landscape around Stonehenge – including the options for the road tunnel – at their Annual General Meeting on 9th November in London.

Mike Parker Pearson has been invited to give the 2015 Beatrice de Cardi Lecture at the British Academy on 9th November 2015.  The eminent scholar and archaeologist presentation will draw together years of groundbreaking research to share new interpretations of the iconic prehistoric site of Stonehenge and the landscape in which it sits.

Mike’s lecture will be preceded by a debate on the future management of the Stonehenge landscape, the CBA’s Annual General Meeting and presentation of the 2015 Marsh archaeology awards.

The event is free but registration is essential. Tickets are available now via Eventbrite or may be booked on 01904 671417 (during office hours).

Beatrice de Cardi was first Assistant Secretary and latterly Secretary of the Council for British Archaeology (CBA) from 1949 to 1973. In order to recognise her outstanding contribution to the CBA and to the archaeology discipline, the Council decided in 1976 to inaugurate a series of lectures, to be called after her. The speakers are given the freedom to discuss their own approach to any aspect of British archaeology.

The CBA headquarters in York was renamed ‘Beatrice de Cardi House’ in honour of her 100th birthday in 2014.

The Council for British Archaeology has taken a long-standing interest in the presentation and long-term preservation of the Stonehenge World Heritage Site – a unique cultural landscape.

Details of our engagement and the development of the CBA’s view can be found on our Stonehenge Saga archive web page, which includes the summary of our case to the 2004 roads inquiry.

The CBA broadly supports the position of ICOMOS UK which seeks to “achieve a solution which respects and maintains the Outstanding Universal Value of this iconic, important and unique site at the earliest opportunity”.

CBA Director, Dr Mike Heyworth MBE said:

“Stonehenge is arguably the best known prehistoric monument in the world and we must think hard before we cause irreversible damage to the landscape surrounding it – which contains many nationally important archaeological features which are not yet fully understood.

There are potential benefits from a tunnel to bury the A303 in the area of Stonehenge, but any proposals need to carefully scrutinised and we need to think of the long term implications, not just the short term needs.”

Join the debate on future options

The CBA will be hosting a debate on the future management options for the landscape around Stonehenge – including the options for the road tunnel – at our Annual General Meeting on 9 November in London.

The event is free but registration is essential. Tickets are available now via Eventbrite or may be booked on 01904 671417 (during office hours).

LINKS:
http://new.archaeologyuk.org/news/stonehenge-debate
http://www.ucl.ac.uk/archaeology/people/staff/parker_pearson

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Tunneling the A303 at Stonehenge is the sensible option – John Glen

29 04 2014

Salisbury’s MP says he’ll keep pushing for traffic problems on the A303 next to Stonehenge to be sorted out once and for all.

John Glen’s told Spire FM that there’s only one logical solution:

“There will be enormous battles between environmentalists, locals who want a Article imagesolution to the issue and the National trust who are the land owner around Stonehenge, and a Tunnel will be the safest option to please everyone.”

The Government’s now started a new feasibility study to look into the possible options and are due to make an announcement in the Autumn.

Mr Glen has a message for the Government as they look into what happens next:

“If I was a transport minister, and I wanted to improve transportation links to the South West; which have been particularly important given what we’ve seen happen over this last winter, then I would need to be pretty sure that any measures I put in place, would avoid there being a bottleneck at Stonehenge.”

Meanwhile, ideas to tunnel part of the A303 past Stonehenge have been described as ‘jumping the gun’ by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).

Kate Fielden from the Wiltshire branch of the CPRE is also secretary of the Stonehenge Alliance – she says there are mixed views on the issue at the moment:

“At the present time, the Stonehenge Alliance feels that there is insufficient evidence to show that it would be justified. I do know though, and the CPRE recognises, that there are problems at Stonehenge, especially at weekends and at holiday times. That’s becoming intolerable really for local people.”

Kate also says the local habitat is key and therefore a tunnel could work:

“It’s difficult when you live close by something to stand back and realise that this whole site is something that is considered internationally to be of the highest significance. I think we have to take the bull by the horns and do a proper job if that is the job that has to be done. It would be completely unthinkable to dual that road on the surface.”

Link sourc: http://www.spirefm.co.uk/news/local-news/1268711/tunneling-the-a303-at-stonehenge-is-the-sensible-option—john-glen/

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