Stonehenge sold short?9 January 2017
The Stonehenge Tunnel has reared its head once again. New plans have been green-lit by the government and it appears the shorter tunnel option, a 2.9km bore, is the favourite.
For readers not familiar with the project, the Stonehenge Tunnel is a long-delayed scheme to put the nearby A303 highway underground. While the supposedly mystical, 4,500 year old stones are worth a visit, the road adjacent to the stones ruins the experience. It is also one of the most congested routes in Britain and undergrounding is considered a necessary solution for expanding the road at the World Heritage Site.
An earlier push for the tunnel was defeated in 1996, and again in 2007 due to cost overruns. The second attempt also saw the National Trust state its preference for a 4km deep tunnel over the original 2km cut and cover vision. In July 2005, Roads Minister Stephen Ladyman announced a review of the options following a cost rise from GBP 284M (USD 505M) when the draft orders were published in 2003 to some GBP 470M (USD 836M). The increase was attributed to very large quantities of weak phosphatic chalk, and a high water table.
It is safe to say that initial reaction has been mixed, with many taking to social media to despair possible damage to the site, which has a footprint of 25 sq. km.
The Stonehenge Alliance campaign group launched a petition in 2015 arguing that any tunnel shorter than 4.3km would do irreparable damage to a site that is still not fully understood. It achieved nearly 20,000 signatures so it remains to be seen if any action will be taken against the modern vision for the project.
While media is reporting that the plans have been finalised, there is still time to get involved. A public consultation, with a focus on drivers’ needs, has opened and will conclude on 5 March. Readers should be able to access the consultation at: www.highways.gov.uk/a303stonehenge/consultation
Public exhibitions will be held at: The Manor Barn, Manor House, Winterbourne Stoke on14 January (11am-5pm); Antrobus House, Amesbury, on 18 January (2pm-8pm); Shrewton Village Hall, The Hollow, Shrewton, on 20 January (5pm-9pm); Avon Valley College, Durrington, on 21 January (11am-5pm); Larkhill School, Wilson Road, Larkhill, 24 January (5pm-9pm); Manor House, Winterbourne Stoke on 27 January (2pm-8pm); Salisbury Guildhall, The Market Place, Salisbury, 28 January (11am-5pm); Grove Hall, Mere on 4 February (11am-5pm); Burlington House, Piccadilly, on 6 February (2pm-8pm); Antrobus House, Amesbury, 8 February (2pm-8pm). The preferred route will be announced later in 2017.