TRANSPORT Secretary Chris Grayling has announced that a tunnel is to be built to take the A303 past Stonehenge, to help to reduce the notorious traffic bottleneck on one of the major routes to the West Country.
The tunnel would be 1.8 miles long, and would form part of a £2 billion programme for road improvements to the region, including dualling the congested single carriageway between Ilchester and Sparkford and the road from the A303 to Taunton to link to the motorway system.
A statement from the National Trust, which with English Heritages manages the World Heritage site, says: “We are looking at the detail of the consultation document and potential tunnel scheme, and will be providing our responses in due course. We encourage others to take part in the public consultation and have their say.
“If it is designed well, Historic England, the National Trust and English Heritage all firmly believe that a tunnel of the right length and location will deliver a scheme worthy of this world-famous place. The current A303 with its busy traffic ruins the setting of many prehistoric monuments and stops people from exploring a large part of the World Heritage Site. A tunnel would reunite the Stonehenge landscape and bring huge benefits, improving our understanding and enjoyment of the Stonehenge monument and the surrounding countryside.”
But the Stonehenge proposal is controversial. English Heritage and the National Trust, which are custodians of the World Heritage site, have backed the idea of the tunnel, but historians Dan Snow and Tom Holland are among those who are fiercely opposed to the scheme.
Snow, the president of the Council for British Archaeology, compared the proposals to vandals destroying ancient artefacts. He said:“We have recently started to realise that the standing stones are just a beginning. They sit at the heart of the world’s most significant and best-preserved stone-age landscape. The government’s plans endanger this unique site.”
The Stonehenge proposals also include a bypass for the Winterbourne Stoke and improvements to existing junctions between the A303 and the intersecting A345 and A360 north-south roads.
Consultation on the plans runs to 5th March and the preferred route will be announced later this year.
There will be a series of public exhibitions: The Manor Barn, Manor House, Winterbourne Stoke, Saturday, 14th January (11am–5pm); Antrobus House, Amesbury, Wednesday, 18th January (2–8pm); Shrewton village hall, Friday, 20th January (5–9pm); Avon Valley College, Durrington, Saturday 21st January (11am–5pm); Larkhill Primary School, Tuesday, 24th January (5–9pm); The Manor Barn, Winterbourne Stoke, Friday, 27th January (2–8pm); Salisbury Guildhall, Saturday 28th January (11am–5pm); Grove Building, Mere, Saturday 4th February (11am–5pm); Society of Antiquaries, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, Monday 6th February (2–8pm); Antrobus House, Amesbury, Wednesday, 8th February (2–-8pm)