The UNESCO World Heritage Centre, and its heritage advisors ICOMOS International, have published a report on the Government’s developing plans for a major upgrade of the A303 which cuts across the Stonehenge World Heritage Site (WHS).
The early plans, which went to a first round of public consultation earlier this year, include proposals for the construction of a tunnel of at least 2.9km in order to remove much of the damaging A303 from the WHS.
In a joint statement, the National Trust, English Heritage and Historic England said:
“We’re disappointed that the ICOMOS report largely ignores both the benefits of removing a large stretch of the A303 and the danger of doing nothing at all.
“The A303 cuts through the heart of the Stonehenge world heritage site, splitting it in two and causing damage to this ancient landscape, pollution and delays for thousands caught up in the traffic jams that have blighted the area for decades. With traffic set to increase, maintaining the status quo is not an option for anyone who cares about the heritage and history of this unique site.
“We believe that if well-designed and sited with the utmost care for the surrounding archaeology and chalk grassland landscape, the tunnel proposal presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to provide a setting worthy of some of the nation’s most important ancient monuments and will bring huge benefits in terms of public access, nature conservation and protecting the nation’s heritage.
“The report rightly points out that further work is needed on the proposals. Our three organisations are champions for this remarkable site and we want to reach the best possible outcome for it. We have challenged aspects of the scheme which we have concerns about and we have called for the proposed routes at the last consultation to be significantly improved. We also recognise there are others in the heritage community who could make a valuable contribution and welcome the recommendation of setting up a scientific committee as soon as possible to bring this expertise together.