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Stonehenge and its Environs


The National Trust - Summary of evidence on Stonehenge road inquiry

5th March 2004

The National Trust today finished presenting its evidence to the Stonehenge Roads Improvement Scheme Inquiry.

The Trust has objected to the proposed 2.1km road tunnel scheme on landscape, archaeological and ecological grounds. During its evidence, the Trust highlighted that four key modifications - including lengthening the tunnel by 800m - would appear to offer significant advantages over the existing scheme in terms of landscape character, noise and visual impact.

The Trust's evidence emphasised that the Stonehenge World Heritage Site and its setting comprise a landscape of extraordinarily high significance for its archaeology and its spirit of place. However, during the past century, human activity and intervention have gravely damaged the prehistoric landscape, and the spirit of place has been spoiled by roads, dismal visitor facilities and the cultivation of crops.

While applauding the government for its desire to pursue a scheme that would rescue Stonehenge from its present predicament, the Trust does not believe that the current scheme proposed by the Highways Agency is the right solution for Stonehenge or delivers the objectives of the Stonehenge Management Plan. The Trust's objection relates principally to the failure of the proposed scheme to reunite the stone circle and its associated monuments with the rich historic landscape surrounding it.

However, the Trust highlighted that four modifications to the proposed scheme would do much to reduce or avoid the adverse impacts on the site and would have material advantages over the existing scheme in terms of landscape character, noise and visual impact. These modifications are:

- Moving the proposed western portal approximately 200 metres westwards.

- Moving the proposed eastern portal 600 metres eastwards

- Using a tunnel boring machine for the construction of the tunnel instead of the presently proposed sprayed concrete lining method. This would significantly ameliorate the potential impacts at Stonehenge Bottom.

- Creating a bridleway instead of a byway along the course of the former A303.

Locating the proposed tunnel portal further out at either end of the tunnel would produce significant benefits for six archaeological sites, five of which are scheduled and four of which are acknowledged on behalf of the Highways Agency to be important. One of these four sites is part of the Normanton Down Barrow Group and two of the others are adjacent to it.

The relocation of the proposed eastern portal would also enable the reconnection of the Avenue. The Avenue constitutes a ceremonial monument of great fame and rarity but it is currently severed by the A303 and would remain so under the proposed scheme. In presenting its evidence, the Trust points out that this treatment is inconsistent with the objective of the Stonehenge Management Plan to enhance the features of degraded archaeological features where appropriate. Furthermore, the Highway's Agency's own longer tunnels report recognises that real landscape and cultural heritage benefits would flow from a longer tunnel.

The modifications suggested by the Trust might result in some delay to the construction period. But the Trust believes that in the circumstances pertaining to this uniquely important site, delay would be amply justified.

The Trust's remit does not extend to assessing the relative economics of one scheme against another. In its curatorial remit, the Trust remains focused on doing what it can to ensure that the chance is not lost to reunite the stone circle with the rich historic landscape surrounding it. In the end, the issue of cost must be a matter for government, having regard to its responsibilities under the World Heritage Convention.

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pure joy Posted by pure joy
18th March 2004ce
Edited 10th February 2006ce

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