The proposed building of a road tunnel at the ancient Stonehenge site has continued to provoke outrage amongst the history and new age communities, with the proposals being branded as “shocking” by archeologists.
The ancient stone circle on Salisbury Plain is considered one of the true treasures of British heritage, a site of international importance not only to archeologists and historians but also the new age community. Named by UNESCO as a world heritage site, critics of the British governments proposed tunnel at the site argue that any development would render the UNESCO agreements worthless. The convention is non-legally binding in international law, yet those nations who have ratified the convention are viewed as having the educational, political and moral responsibility to abide by its aims and objectives.
The British government is undeterred by criticism, including from the World Heritage Committee, and is expected to move forward with the £1.6 billion proposal. The project, designed to
win votes in the south end congestion on the A303 has worried archeologists in particular, with many concerned that both surface areas and artefacts could be damaged or destroyed by either the construction itself or subsidence from heavy traffic across the proposed four lane road. Archeologists have long believed that the site is part of much larger network of burial mounds, processional avenues, prehistoric towns and other monuments and that the landscape is of vital importance to future work and discoveries at the site.
“We’re right on the cliff edge here of losing a valuable site… Stonehenge isn’t just about the stones; it’s about the whole landscape. We can’t mess around with that landscape; it won’t come back” – David Jacques, archaeologist
The government contends that the tunnel is an essential answer to congestion problems between London and the South-West, the tunnel being an economical legacy that will create thousands of jobs, lead to the creation of new homes and encourage tourism in the area. With the extended site currently cut off by traffic, the backers of the project argue that the underground tunnel will allow visitors at Stonehenge to more freely move around in peace and that no damage will be done either to the standing stones or any other surface.
“Visitors to the World Heritage Site deserve to see Stonehenge and the monuments around it in a tranquil setting, not spoiled by the constant sight and sound of passing traffic.” – Michael Murray-Fennell, English Heritage
Critics however point out that the government will stop funding English Heritage in 2023 and have questioned their sincerity in backing the government project:
“They are reliant on funding from Stonehenge.. They hope it [Stonehenge] will finance all of English Heritage. All of this shows the venality; it’s too much about money.” – David Jacques, archaeologist
World Heritage have urged the British government to adopt a longer tunnel with its entrances and exits well outside the bounds of the site, with UNESCO warning that Stonehenge could lose its status as a World Heritage site should plans go ahead as suggested.
Construction at the historic site is expected to begin in 2021 but legal challenges are expected once the government tables a development plan.
Michael East is a writer with a wide variety of eclectic tastes including politics, history, archaeology, professional wrestling and British science-fiction. A former Students' Union President and newspaper editor, he has studied at a variety of institutions and graduated in both history and politics.
He is interested in truth, justice and the unAmerican way. Named as TIME Person of the Year in 2006 and 2011, he is known variously as a rake, a libertine and as the King in the North... if to nobody else but himself.