Stonehenge bypass

Stonehenge bypass DEFAULT

Stonehenge tunnel campaigners win court battle

Image source, Getty Images

Campaigners have won a court battle to prevent the "scandalous" construction of a road tunnel near Stonehenge.

The £1.7bn Highways England project aimed to reduce A303 congestion but campaigners said it would detrimentally affect the world heritage site.

The government approved plans in 2020 for a two-mile (3.2km) tunnel to be created near the Wiltshire monument.

Mr Justice Holgate's ruling means the order granted by transport secretary Grant Shapps has been quashed.

Image source, Highways England

Highways England said it wanted to build the tunnel to reduce traffic and cut journey times on the A303, which is the most direct route for motorists travelling between the South East and South West and is used by thousands of people daily.

The BBC understands the project will have to be frozen while the government considers its next steps.

In his ruling the judge found Mr Shapps' decision was "unlawful" on two grounds.

He found there was a "material error of law" in the government's decision-making process as there was no evidence of the impact on each individual asset at the site.

And he said Mr Shapps had failed to consider alternative schemes, in accordance with the World Heritage Convention and common law.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: "We are disappointed in the judgment and are considering it carefully before deciding how to proceed."

In 2020, Save Stonehenge World Heritage Site (SSWHS) crowdfunded £50,000 needed to bring a judicial review at the High Court.

John Adams, SSWHS's director, said: "We could not be more pleased about the outcome of the legal challenge.

"Now that we are facing a climate emergency, it is all the more important that this ruling should be a wake-up call for the government.

"It should look again at its roads programme and take action to reduce road traffic and eliminate any need to build new and wider roads that threaten the environment as well as our cultural heritage."

Image source, Highways England

SSWHS argued Mr Shapps did not properly consider the damage that would be done to a number of prehistoric sites and ancient artefacts, and that his approach to the World Heritage Convention was unlawful.

Highways England said the planned tunnel would remove the sight and sound of traffic passing the site and had aimed to start work on it in 2023.

Its acting chief executive, Nick Harris, said: "We now have to wait while the Department for Transport consider its options.

"We still believe our project is the best solution to the ongoing issues along the A303 past Stonehenge and was developed after a long and extensive collaboration with our key stakeholders."

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Why a Newly Approved Plan to Build a Tunnel Beneath Stonehenge Is So Controversial

A view of Stonehenge's iconic square stones, under a blue sky with puffy white clouds; in the distance between two of the large stones, a trafficked road full of cars snakes over a hill

Every year, more than one million tourists flock to Stonehenge to marvel at the hulking rock formations erected by Neolithic builders roughly 5,000 years ago. But some visitors find themselves faced with a decidedly less awe-inspiring scene: a noisy two-lane highway, often choked with cars, that cuts straight through the grassy slopes surrounding the ancient monument.

After decades of debate and planning, the British government has finally approved a proposal to build a tunnel moving this road, the A303, underground. The United Kingdom’s transport secretary, Grant Shapps, greenlit the $2.25-billion (£1.7 billion) project last week despite strong objections from archaeologists and preservationists, who fear that construction will result in the loss of hundreds of thousands of artifacts, report Gwyn Topham and Steven Morris for the Guardian.

Currently, the section of the A303 by Stonehenge supports about twice as much traffic as it was designed to accommodate. According to Highways England, the government company set to construct the road, the new plan will create an eight-mile stretch of dual carriageway that travels through a tunnel for a two-mile stretch as it passes the prehistoric stones.

The tunnel will stand about 55 yards farther away from Stonehenge than the existing A303, reports Brian Boucher for artnet News. According to proposals on Highway England’s website, tunnel entrances will be disguised with grassed-over canopies and will remain “well out of sight” of Stonehenge.

Supporters of the plan argue that the tunnel will reduce the noise and smells of a busy road while offering Stonehenge visitors a relatively unimpeded view of their surroundings. Officials say the expanded lanes will also decrease traffic bottlenecks—something this stretch of road is notorious for, according to Roff Smith of National Geographic.

“Visitors will be able to experience Stonehenge as it ought to be experienced, without seeing an ugly snarl of truck traffic running right next to it,” Anna Eavis, curatorial director for English Heritage, the charity that cares for the historic site, tells National Geographic.

Kate Mayor, CEO of English Heritage, voiced her support for the plan in a statement provided to NPR’s Reese Oxner.

“Placing the noisy and intrusive A303 within a tunnel will reunite Stonehenge with the surrounding prehistoric landscape and help future generations to better understand and appreciate this wonder of the world,” says Mayor.

Archaeologists, however, contend that the tunnel’s construction could destroy valuable archaeological evidence yet to be discovered in the site’s topsoil. Mike Parker Pearson, a scholar of British later prehistory at University College London and a member of Highway England’s independent A303 scientific committee, tells the Observer’s Tom Wall that the project’s contractors will only be expected to retrieve and preserve 4 percent of artifacts uncovered in ploughed soil during the construction process.

“We are looking at losing about half a million artifacts—they will be machined off without recording,” says Pearson, who is part of a team that has been excavating a site near the proposed western tunnel entrance since 2004.

He adds, “You could say ‘they are just a bunch of old flints’ but they tell us about the use of the Stonehenge landscape over the millennia.”

Experts also assert that the region could hold many new surprises: This summer, archaeologists discovered a circle of enormous ancient pits encircling Stonehenge—a find that “completely transformed how we understand [the] landscape,” lead researcher Vincent Gaffney of the University of Bradford told the New York Times’ Megan Specia in June. Now, Gaffney warns that future finds of this magnitude could be lost due to construction work.

“Remote sensing has revolutionized archaeology and is transforming our understanding of ancient landscapes—even Stonehenge, a place we thought we knew well,” he says to National Geographic. “Nobody had any idea these were there. What else don’t we know?”

David Jacques—director of the Blick Mead archaeological dig, which has unearthed crucial information about the humans who lived near Stonehenge as early as 8,000 B.C.— tells the Guardian that the decision to build the tunnel is “absolutely gut-wrenching” and “a head-bangingly stupid decision.”

Critics of the construction project include the Campaign to Protect Rural England, the British Archaeological Trust and the Stonehenge Alliance, which launched a petition calling to “save Stonehenge … from the bulldozers.” (The call to action garnered more than 150,000 signatures.) Additionally, Arthur Pendragon, a prominent modern-day druid, tells the Observer that he plans to lead protests against the construction.

In 2019, Unesco’s World Heritage Committee condemned the plan, saying it would have an “adverse impact” on the “outstanding universal value” of the site. As BBC News reported at the time, the group called for the creation of longer tunnel sections that would “reduce further the impact on the cultural landscape.”

English Heritage and Highways England say that the project’s staff will take extensive steps to ensure that the historic land and its treasures are disturbed as little as possible during construction.

“We already have a good idea of what’s there and there will be a full program of mitigation to ensure that any archaeology that isn’t preserved in situ is fully recorded,” Eavis tells the Observer.

Speaking with the Observer, Derek Parody, the project’s director, adds, “We’re confident that the proposed scheme presents the best solution for tackling the longstanding bottleneck on this section of the A303, returning the Stonehenge landscape to something like its original setting and helping to boost the south-west economy.”

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The Battle of Stonehenge: what to know about the controversial £1.7bn tunnel project

A string of sites could be endangered by new cuttings and building work; in total, ten hectares will be churned up. At the western end of the tunnel it could cut through an early Bronze Age settlement. At the eastern end is Blick Mead, an ancient Mesolithic site, where humans gathered thousands of years before Stonehenge was erected.

A treasure trove of finds have been made there: 35,000 pieces of worked flint; the perfectly preserved hoofprints of wild cattle, known as aurochs; as well as a 7,000-year-old dog’s tooth, which has been analysed to show that it began its life far away, probably in northern England. Blick Mead’s integrity could be compromised by the construction of a tunnel entrance a few hundred metres away, and a flyover literally metres from the dig.

Do all experts oppose the plan?

No. Both the National Trust, which owns 800 hectares of land around Stonehenge, and English Heritage, which runs the site itself, are in favour of the tunnel in principle. English Heritage says the scheme “would transform Stonehenge, reunite the landscape and leave a lasting legacy for future generations”.

At present, the World Heritage Site, dotted with monuments, barrows and enclosures, is bisected by the A303: two thirds of its 6,500 acres are on the southern side of the A303, opposite Stonehenge. Grassing over the existing road (which would be turned into a track for walkers and riders) would allow for the restoration of the Stonehenge Avenue, an ancient processional route which currently crosses the A303 en route to the monument from the River Avon.

Is there a third way?

As it stands, the planned scheme is “an unattractive British compromise: a bit of a tunnel, but one that is not long enough to protect the archaeology of the World Heritage Site”, says archaeologist Professor Mike Parker Pearson, a leading expert on Stonehenge.

The Stonehenge Alliance, Unesco and others argue that the tunnel should be made longer to avoid risking damage from the construction of its portals. The Government, though, is adamant that it only has funding for a tunnel of a certain length. English Heritage has warned that a longer tunnel wouldn’t be financially viable, with the result that we would be left with the unsatisfactory status quo.

Stonehenge protest
Is it actually going ahead?

Currently, that’s unclear. Highways England has said it expects to start building the tunnel between July and September 2022; the construction is expected to take five years to complete.

But a recent ruling by the High Court has thrown a spanner in the works. On 30 July, a judicial review challenging the lawfulness of the Government’s decision sided with the anti-tunnel campaigners. The High Court ruled that Shapps had acted irrationally and unlawfully when he approved the project, and that he did not properly consider alternative schemes - as required by law. It is understood that the project will have to be frozen while the Government considers its next steps.

And even if the project ends up getting the green light, some anti-tunnel campaigners have vowed to take direct action to stop the works from going ahead. “Boris Johnson claimed he’d lie down in front of the bulldozers to stop the third runway at Heathrow,” says Arthur Pendragon, a druid who claims to be an incarnation of the once and future king of England. “I really will lie in front of the bulldozers to stop this.”

 This article was updated on 2 August 2021 to reflect the High Court’s judgement on 30 July

Stonehenge Rebuild 1958

A303 Stonehenge tunnel: Why, as a local resident, I welcome the High Court's decision

Read more: A303 Stonehenge tunnel decision was 'unlawful' High Court rules

Read more: Reaction as campaigners win High Court fight

The answer is simple – the proposed scheme did not consider the impact on local people.

Winterbourne Stoke would have had 1.25 thousand cubic metres of soil from the tunnel construction delivered to the village by a temporary road across the River Till.

This would have been a nightmare for locals during construction and resulted in the bypass being built much higher than specified in the 2004 plan.

The detrimental effect on the landscape, noise levels and local community would have left an appalling legacy for the future.

So, what’s the alternative?

I believe we should relinquish the World Heritage Status of Stonehenge in order to implement a workable solution.

This would allow the dualling of the A303 on its present line in a cutting deep enough to hide Stonehenge from the view of motorists but maintaining the marvellous view heading west.

A proper bypass for Winterbourne Stoke, to the north of the village and low enough to reduce noise levels, would be built as outlined in the 2004 plan.

This scheme would take less time to construct, save money and reduce the damage to the environment.

It would also be popular with those that are most affected – the local residents.

Ian West

Winterbourne Stoke


Bypass stonehenge

A303 Stonehenge (Amesbury to Berwick Down)

Reuniting the Stonehenge landscape and improving your journey

We will improve the A303 past Stonehenge between Amesbury and Berwick by creating a new dual carriageway with a tunnel, removing traffic from much of this iconic setting.

Explore our website

The legal challenge against the decision to grant consent for the A303 Amesbury to Berwick Down scheme past Stonehenge has been upheld by the High Court judge. In light of the ruling, the Secretary of State is going to look again at the evidence on which he based his decision. We don’t yet know what this will involve or how long it may take but we’ll work closely with the Department of Transport to support them throughout.

We are confident that our scheme presents the best solution for tackling the longstanding bottleneck on this section of the A303, returning the Stonehenge landscape to something like its original setting and helping to boost the south-west economy.

Take a look at our latest booklet to get a quick overview of the scheme – setting out its key features, and what benefits it will bring. Find out more in our latest news section.

Cultural heritage

Conserving and enhancing the World Heritage Site

Economic growth

Unlocking the South West


Providing a positive lasting legacy for local communities


Faster, safer, more reliable journeys


Enhancing biodiversity

Road tunnel to be built under England's Stonehenge

Stonehenge road tunnel

proposed road tunnel

Traffic on the A303 road passing by Stonehenge

The Stonehenge road tunnel is a planned tunnel in Wiltshire, England, drawn up by Highways England to upgrade the A303 road. It would move the A303 into a tunnel under the StonehengeWorld Heritage Site, completing the removal of traffic begun with the 2012 closure of the A344 road.[1][2] The wider project was designed to improve the landscape around the monument and to improve safety on the A303,[3] and was part of proposals to change the site in other ways including moving the visitors' centre. The project is expected to cost £1.7 billion.[4]


The A303 road passing by Stonehenge

The A303 primary route is one of the main routes from London to the South West of England. Sections have been upgraded to dual carriageway status, though one third of the road remains single carriageway. Traffic flows on the A303 between Amesbury and Winterbourne Stoke (the section including Stonehenge) are above the capacity of the road[5] and the Highways Agency expressed concern about safety on this road and the A344.

The two roads passed close to Stonehenge and land owned by the National Trust[6] with the A303 passing directly south and the A344 directly to the north, with a pedestrian tunnel passing from the Stonehenge visitor centre to the site underneath this road. As part of the development of the proposals, over 50 routes were considered by the Highways Agency.[7]

Since 1991, 51 proposals have been considered for improving the A303 in the area and to remove it from the Stonehenge site.[8]


As of November 2020, the approved planning application comprises:[9]

  • A bypass taking the A303 north of the village of Winterbourne Stoke, with a viaduct over the Till valley
  • A new junction between the A303 and the A360 Devizes-Salisbury road, west of the existing junction and outside the Stonehenge World Heritage Site
  • A tunnel taking the A303 past Stonehenge, about 3.3 km (2.1 mi) long
  • Improvements to the junction between the A303 and A345 near Amesbury.


1995 proposal[edit]

In 1995 it was proposed to build a tunnel for the A303 underneath the World Heritage Site. A conference agreed on a 2.5-mile (4 km) bored tunnel; however, the government instead proposed a cut and cover tunnel, with plans being published in 1999. These plans were criticised by the National Trust, Transport 2000 and others who expressed concern that it would cause damage to archaeological remains along the route, destroy ancient sites and not achieve an improvement in the landscape.[10][11]

In 2002, new plans for a bored tunnel of 1.3 miles (2.1 km) were announced by the Secretary of State for Transport as part of a 7.7-mile (12.5 km) plan to upgrade the A303 to dual carriageway status, with the tunnel estimated to cost £183 million.[12] This proposal brought further protests from the National Trust, English Heritage, UNESCO, CPRE, the Council for British Archaeology[13] and local groups as the tunnel approach cutting would cut in two a prehistoric track way between Stonehenge and a nearby river. These groups are calling for a tunnel at least 2.9 km long, which would, while being sited within the world heritage site, clear most of the known major artefacts, claiming that if the government goes ahead with the 2.1 km tunnel there may never be another chance to remove the road from the site completely.[14]

In 2004 a public enquiry[15] required under the Highways Act 1980 was conducted by a planning inspector, Michael Ellison. His enquiry agreed that the government proposals were adequate.[6] The report stated:

The physical loss of archaeological remains, the changes to the land form in these sections, and the scale of the new highway would adversely affect the authenticity of the site and more than offset the benefits of the proposed tunnel in the central area. The published scheme would represent the largest earthwork ever constructed within the World Heritage Site; a feature that would contribute nothing to the authenticity.

but concluded:

...after taking into account the requirements of local and national planning, including the requirements of agriculture, that it is expedient for the purpose of improving the A303 between points A and B on the plan referred to in the Line Order for a trunk road to be provided along the route shown in the Line Order

On 20 July 2005 the tunnel scheme was withdrawn by the Government, partly due to rising costs of construction, which had doubled to £470 million.[16] The Highways Agency continued to list the project as planned, but gave 2008 as the earliest date for the start of construction.[3]

2005 proposal[edit]

On 31 October 2005 a Government steering group was set up to look at possible solutions,[17] with the aim of choosing an "option in keeping with the special requirements of the location that is affordable, realistic and deliverable." The review presented five options – the published tunnel scheme, a cut and cover tunnel, a 'partial solution' (involving a roundabout but maintaining the current road), and two overland bypass routes.[18][19] Some of these plans have been criticised as being damaging to both archaeology and biodiversity, including the stone curlew, barn owls, bats, and the chalk grassland habitat.[20] Five options were considered including diverting the A303 further away and only closing the A344. The group expected to produce a report in 2006, taking into account the results of public consultation which started on 23 January 2006 and ran until 24 April 2006.[3]

On 6 December 2007, Roads Minister Tom Harris announced that the whole scheme had been cancelled due to increased costs of £540 million. English Heritage expressed disappointment whilst the group Save Stonehenge (now Stonehenge Alliance) were pleased with the outcome. The Highways Agency stated that they would continue to work on small scale improvements to the A303.[21]

A344 closure[edit]

A revised proposal, of closing the A344 road between Stonehenge Bottom and Byway 12, and closing part of the B3086, was put forward in 2010. This also proposed a new roundabout to replace the Airman's Corner junction and improvements to the Longbarrow roundabout on the A303.[22][23]

A planning inquiry to consider the proposal began in June 2011.[24] In July 2012 work began on the £27 million project, which involved the closure and grassing over of part of the A344 and the closing of the underpass beneath the road at the monument entrance.[25] In December 2013 the new visitors' centre at Airman's Corner on the A360 was opened. Shuttle buses take visitors to the monument along the old A344 road, a distance of approximately 2.4 km.

2013 proposal[edit]

According to documentation released in response to a Freedom of Information request, in January 2012 local councils and the South West Local Enterprise Partnership met to discuss their proposals for "a consortium of Local Authorities to develop and take forward a new scheme for improvements to the A303/ A358/A30" and to "develop an effective lobbying framework so that we can take a planned approach to raising our profile both nationally, regionally and locally".[26] In September 2012 a survey conducted by Somerset County Council found that more than 90% of commuters and businesses in the South West backed an upgrade of the A303.[27] In April 2013 it was reported that the chancellor was giving consideration to "...adding lanes to the A303 – known all too well to holidaymakers – which runs from Basingstoke through Wiltshire (past Stonehenge) and Somerset to the South West of England".[28]

2017 go-ahead[edit]

The proposal was given an initial go-ahead by the government on 12 January 2017. The Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, said that "it will transform the A303, cutting congestion and improving journey times". Chairman of Amesbury Museum and Heritage Trust, Andy Rhind-Tutt, described the tunnel plan as a "self-destructing time bomb" which would "do nothing" for traffic problems in the area. The Stonehenge Alliance campaign group repeated their belief that "any tunnel shorter than 2.7 miles would cause irreparable damage to the landscape".[29][30] The group also responded with a statement:[31]

We object strongly to the short tunnel scheme and address archaeological, natural environment, landscape and transport considerations. We highlight the incompatibility of the short tunnel project with Government’s commitment to the World Heritage Convention, its own planning guidance and policies, and the widely agreed World Heritage Site Management Plan 2015. We note a number of statements in the Technical Appraisal Report that indicate the scheme cannot be considered ‘value for money’.

Both tunnel portals will lie within the heritage site, and campaigners are concerned that artefacts will be lost during construction.[4] In 2017, a report from UNESCO stated that the tunnel could have an adverse impact on the site, and in 2019 it condemned the project.[32][33]

Highways England held consultations on the scheme in 2018. A cost of £1.6 billion and a planned start date in 2021 were indicated.[34]English Heritage, the National Trust and Historic England are quoted as supporting the concept of the tunnel with some concerns about the linking of byways, whilst the Stonehenge Alliance and Friends of the Earth remain opposed,[35] as are the Campaign for Better Transport.[36] In July 2019, UNESCO renewed its condemnation of the proposal and urged the government to not approve the scheme.[37]

2020 approval[edit]

In 2020, Chancellor Rishi Sunak greenlighted the tunnel project, although this was delayed due to archaeological discoveries at Durrington Walls. The Stonehenge Alliance asserted that this will cause irreparable damage in breach of the World Heritage Convention.[38]

On 12 November 2020, the Secretary of State Grant Shapps granted a Development Consent Order for the project, overruling the recommendation of planning inspectors, and despite widespread opposition and petitions.[39][40] Campaigners have since launched a legal challenge.[41]

A "mass trespass" in opposition to the plans was held on 5 December 2020 by an alliance of local people and groups, climate activists, and archaeologists.[42][43]

2021 legal challenge[edit]

In February 2021, campaigners were granted a High Court hearing to determine if a judicial review should be held, and this was upheld.[44]

On 30 July 2021 with the High Court hearing taking place, UNESCO again re-iterated that Stonehenge and other sites in the UK could lose their World heritage status if the UK Government did not curb "ill-advised development".[45] Campaigners opposing the tunnel were successful in the hearing, with the judge ruling the Transport Secretary's decision to proceed with the tunnel as being "unlawful" on two grounds: that there was no evidence of the impact on each individual asset at the site, and that he had failed to consider alternative schemes.[46]

See also[edit]


  1. ^"Reasons for Review". Highways Agency. Retrieved 8 April 2007.
  2. ^Hicks, Dan (24 February 2017). "Why are England's heritage bodies supporting the Stonehenge Bypass?". Apollo.
  3. ^ abc"A303 Stonehenge". Highways Agency. Archived from the original on 4 August 2012. Retrieved 8 April 2007.
  4. ^ abTopham, Gwyn; Morris, Steven (12 November 2020). "Stonehenge road tunnel given go-ahead despite backlash". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 13 November 2020.
  5. ^"A303 Stonehenge (incorporating the Winterbourne Stoke Bypass) Preferred Route Announcement June 1999 – Why a road improvement is proposed". Highways Agency. Retrieved 8 April 2007.
  6. ^ ab"Report to the First Secretary of State and the Secretary of State for Transport". 31 January 2005. p. 8. Archived from the original(PDF) on 6 February 2007. Retrieved 8 July 2007.
  7. ^"A303 Stonehenge (incorporating the Winterbourne Stoke Bypass) Preferred Route Announcement June 1999 – Choice of route". Highways Agency. Retrieved 8 April 2007.
  8. ^Professor Alec Boksenberg CBE FRS (19 April 2006). "A303 Stonehenge Improvement Scheme Review: public consultation — Response by the United Kingdom National Commission for UNESCO"(PDF). UNESCO Committee for United Kingdom. p. 2. Retrieved 17 May 2007.
  9. ^"Planning decision letter on behalf of the Secretary of State"(PDF). Planning Inspectorate. Department for Transport. 12 November 2020.
  10. ^"Stonehenge road plans 'may damage site'". BBC News. 18 October 2001. Retrieved 8 April 2007.
  11. ^"Trust attacks Stonehenge tunnel". BBC News. 4 October 2002. Retrieved 8 April 2007.
  12. ^"Stonehenge tunnel approved". BBC News. 10 December 2002. Retrieved 8 April 2007.
  13. ^"Proof of Evidence of George Lambrick MA FSA MIFA"(DOC). Council for British Archaeology. January 2004. Retrieved 8 April 2007.
  14. ^"Maximising benefits – A more sustainable tunnel solution at Stonehenge" (Press release). The National Trust. Retrieved 17 May 2007.
  15. ^"Stonehenge tunnel inquiry opens". BBC News. 17 February 2004. Retrieved 8 April 2007.
  16. ^"Stonehenge tunnel plan cash blow". BBC News. 20 July 2005. Retrieved 8 April 2007.
  17. ^"Way Forward Announced For A303 Stonehenge Review" (Press release). Government News Network. 31 October 2005. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 8 April 2007.
  18. ^"Heritage site road plans revealed". BBC News. 8 February 2006. Retrieved 8 April 2007.
  19. ^"A303 Stonehenge Improvement Scheme Review – Public Consultation"(PDF). Highways Agency. January 2006. Retrieved 8 April 2007.
  20. ^"Stonehenge road 'a risk to birds'". BBC News. 23 January 2006. Retrieved 8 April 2007.
  21. ^"Stonehenge tunnel plans scrapped". BBC News. 6 December 2007. Retrieved 6 December 2007.
  22. ^"Public inquiry into Stonehenge road closure". Salisbury Journal. 22 June 2011. Retrieved 12 August 2011.
  23. ^"Stonehenge Road Closure". BAJR archaeology portal. February 2010. Retrieved 12 August 2011.
  24. ^"Inquiry into Stonehenge A344 closure plans". BBC. 22 June 2011. Retrieved 12 August 2011.
  25. ^"Stonehenge's £27m makeover will end its days as a traffic island". The Guardian. 11 July 2012. Retrieved 2 September 2012.
  26. ^"Notes of a meeting to discuss opportunities to take forward a new proposal for improvements to the A303, A358 and A30"(PDF).
  27. ^"A303 dualling plan through South West 'supported by businesses'".
  28. ^"Chancellor plans second toll motorway in major road spend". The Independent. 1 April 2013.
  29. ^"Stonehenge tunnel plan finalised by government". BBC News. 12 January 2017. Retrieved 12 January 2017.
  30. ^Hicks, Dan (24 January 2017). "The A303 is part of the Stonehenge setting, don't bury it". The Independent.
  31. ^"Stonehenge Alliance responds and calls for a re-run". Stonehenge Alliance. 3 March 2017.
  32. ^"Stonehenge tunnel 'should be reconsidered', Unesco says". BBC News. 15 June 2017. Retrieved 13 November 2020.
  33. ^"Stonehenge: Unesco condemns tunnel plan". BBC News. 4 July 2019. Retrieved 13 November 2020.
  34. ^"A303 Stonehenge". Highways England. Retrieved 22 September 2018.
  35. ^Steven Morris (8 February 2018). "Stonehenge tunnel: plans for £1.6bn scheme published". The Guardian.
  36. ^"New Stonehenge consultation fails to address UNESCO's concerns". Campaign for Better Transport. 5 July 2018.
  37. ^"Stonehenge: Unesco condemns tunnel plan". BBC News. 4 July 2019.
  38. ^"Stonehenge Tunnel Delays". The Wild Hunt. 23 July 2020.
  39. ^Gwyn Topham (12 November 2020). "Stonehenge road tunnel given go-ahead despite backlash". The Guardian.
  40. ^"A303 Stonehenge | National Infrastructure Planning". Planning Inspectorate. Retrieved 15 November 2020.
  41. ^Owen Boycott (30 November 2020). "Campaigners launch legal challenge over Stonehenge road tunnel". The Guardian.
  42. ^Diane Taylor (5 December 2020). "Tunnel protesters sing and drum their way into Stonehenge". The Guardian.
  43. ^"Stonehenge tunnel: Protest staged at monument". BBC News. 5 December 2020.
  44. ^"Stonehenge tunnel: Campaigners granted High Court hearing". BBC News: Wiltshire. 17 February 2021. Retrieved 18 February 2021.
  45. ^Josh Halliday (30 July 2021). "UK cultural landmarks may lose world heritage status, says Unesco chief". The Guardian.
  46. ^"Stonehenge tunnel campaigners win court battle". BBC News. 30 July 2021.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°10′36″N1°49′35″W / 51.1767°N 1.8265°W / 51.1767; -1.8265


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Druids face defeat as bulldozers get set for Stonehenge bypass

It has been bitterly debated for the past three decades, but the latest plans to partly bury the A303 in a tunnel beside Stonehenge may this week finally get approval from transport secretary Grant Shapps.

The £2.4bn scheme – which will see the traffic-choked road to the west country widened into a dual carriageway near the ancient site before shooting down a two-mile tunnel – has pitted archaeologists, local campaigners and even the nation’s druids against the combined might of Highways England, English Heritage and the National Trust.

Professor Mike Parker Pearson, whose archaeological digs have transformed current thinking about the purpose of Stonehenge, fears the scheme will cause irreparable damage to a still largely unexplored ancient landscape. “The world heritage site where Stonehenge sits is over 5km long but the tunnel is under 3km. This means a dual carriageway will emerge from both portals within this unique and protected landscape,” he said. “There will be almost total destruction of all archaeological remains within its path.”

Pearson, who is a member of Highways England’s independent A303 scientific committee, says the agency’s contractors will only be expected to retrieve 4% of artefacts in the ploughed soil during construction. “We are looking at losing about half a million artefacts – they will be machined off without recording. You could say ‘they are just a bunch of old flints’ but they tell us about the use of the Stonehenge landscape over the millennia,” he said.

The western end of the tunnel will, he claims, erase most of the remains of a camp which may have been used by the builders of Stonehenge. “When we’re looking at prehistory, the buried remains are the only evidence we have. It’s rather like burning ancient manuscripts,” says Pearson, who has been excavating the site since 2004.

Stonehenge graphic

The Unesco World Heritage Committee, which designates areas of exceptional importance to humanity, has warned that the current scheme will “impact adversely” on the Stonehenge landscape because the tunnel is too short.

Local resident Kate Fielden, who has been campaigning against tunnel proposals for over 20 years, says landscape surrounding Stonehenge will be “trashed” by gouging out a vast trench for the dual carriageway. “It is too depressing. It’s not just that a world heritage site will be spoiled for ever, but my greater sadness is that our government should care so little about something which means so much to so many people,” she said.

Fielden, a retired curator, who regularly walks the chalk downland around Stonehenge, says opponents of the scheme haven’t decided what to do if Shapps gives the go-ahead but she is prepared to put herself in harm’s way. “I’m not ruling out lying in front of a bulldozer, but that’s a long way down the line,” she said.

She is not the only one willing to protest. King Arthur Pendragon, one of most senior druids in Britain, says he would join her in front of any bulldozers. “Never mind Boris Johnson threatening to do it at Heathrow Airport, I have actually done it, I’m known for doing it,” he said.

The light that could be cast by vehicles entering the tunnel also worries druids like Pendragon. “The light pollution from the western portal is in line with the sunset at the winter solstice,” he said. “Stonehenge was built for that purpose and that’s what it is used for to this day. Druids and pilgrims won’t come if the tunnel is there because there will be nothing to observe any more.”

The scheme’s supporters take a very different view. Anna Eavis, English Heritage’s curatorial director, whose responsibilities include Stonehenge, argues the tunnel will join up the ancient features cut off by the road and allow people to enjoy Stonehenge in peace. “If you stand by the stones at the moment all you can see to the south is a great queue of vehicles. It is noisy and smelly and it looks awful,” she said.

Eavis adds the line of the road has already been archaeologically evaluated: “We already have a good idea of what’s there and there will be a full programme of mitigation to ensure that any archaeology that isn’t preserved in situ is fully recorded.”

Highways England, which has devised the plan, says it is the best way of tackling congestion. “We’re confident that the proposed scheme presents the best solution for tackling the longstanding bottleneck on this section of the A303, returning the Stonehenge landscape to something like its original setting and helping to boost the south-west economy,” said Derek Parody, the project’s director.


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