The Government has announced that it will fund a road tunnel under the Stonehenge World Heritage Site to remove the traffic bottleneck on the A303 near the world-famous prehistoric monument.
The announcement on the new road programme quotes the intention to construct “a twin-bored tunnel of at least 1.8 miles as the road passes Stonehenge”.
No detailed plans have yet to emerge, but a tunnel length of 2.9km (1.8m) has been quoted in the media which falls short of the 4.5km option that many heritage bodies argued for when the last proposal for a tunnel was debated in a public inquiry in 2004.
English Heritage statement
The latest Government announcement has been welcomed by both the National Trust and English Heritage.
Dr Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, said:
"This will be the biggest single investment ever by Government in this country's heritage and is truly a momentous decision. We felt so proud to close the A344 last year and build award-winning visitor facilities at Stonehenge. We have been campaigning for a tunnel to remove the blight that is the A303, for the past 30 years. This news is the icing on the cake and vindicates all our hard work.
We have been trying to find a solution for the A303 improvements since 1986 when Stonehenge became a World Heritage Site - recognition that it is one of the best known and most important prehistoric landscapes in the world.
It is vital that any new scheme to put the A303 into a bored tunnel is located in the right place and designed to the best specification. This is about investing in the future. We have a responsibility to future generations to get this right as we provide a world class solution for a world class place."
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.”