Stonehenge, Wiltshire, England.
Stonehenge, Wiltshire, England. Image: garethwiscombe Wikimedia CC BY SA 2.0

Stonehenge road tunnel given go-ahead despite backlash

The decision to construct the road under the Stonehenge has been met with dismay from archaeologists and green campaigners. The £1.7 billion project has divided opinion. Historic England and the National Trust argue that diverting the road underground will enhance the landscape around the World Heritage Site. Inspectors’ report noted that the project can cause substantial damage to the cultural heritage, visual impact and landscape of the monument.

Highways England assured that the tunnel would be “sensitive and transformational” that would restore the original setting of the landscape and ease the traffic en route to and from the south-west. The eight-mile stretch will include a two-mile-long tunnel which will run under the Stonehenge about 50 metres away from the existing A303 route. They reiterated that construction will avoid disturbing the important archaeological sites and the winter solstice sunset views.

Divided opinion

The project director from Highways England Derek Parody says that it would “conserve and enhance” the site. He added that road builders were working closely with English Heritage, National Trust, Historic England and the independent A303 scientific committee.

However, at least one member of the committee has warned that half a million artefacts could be destroyed during the construction of the tunnel. The portals of the tunnel are within the overall heritage site. Rollo Maughfling, the archdruid of Stonehenge and Britain, said: “It’s a great shame. It’s clear that many important discoveries are still being made about the ancient man that will be put in danger.”

Mark Bush, a lawyer who advises the opponents of the project, said: “This decision was taken against the advice of the independent planning inspectorate panel, and places the UK in substantial breach of its obligations under an international treaty, the World Heritage Convention.”

“This is an extraordinary step to take. The decision is inevitably going to be the subject of a judicial review.”

Campaigners have six weeks to seek a judicial review of the decision in the high court.

Read further at The Guardian.