Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point
On Air
Low Graphics

Tuesday, September 22, 1998 Published at 13:13 GMT 14:13 UK


Stonehenge tunnel runs into trouble

Stonehenge: Wrangles over 'car-free' zone

A plan to create a car-free zone around Stonehenge by building a shallow tunnel through the countryside has been described as a "barbaric abomination" by archaeologists.

In July, Culture Secretary Chris Smith ended 15 years of wrangling when he approved the proposal to take traffic away from the site.

The idea is to close the A344 trunk road that runs to the north and bury the A303 trunk road that runs to the south in a shallow, 2km-long 'cut and cover' tunnel.

But opponents claim that English Heritage has caved in to political pressure and is building a 'cut and cover' tunnel costing £120m to save money.

A deep bore tunnel passing well below the Wiltshire site would cost £300m by comparison.

Archaeologists argue that the 'cut and cover' tunnel will damage the wealth of other stone age features that surround Stonehenge, while a deep bore tunnel is the only solution that will not disturb the monuments.

'Greater good'

English Heritage, which is responsible for the development of the site, said the tunnel will cause "minimal damage".

Spokesman Geoffrey Wainwright said: "It is total nonsense to say a great deal of archaeological damage will be done.

"The tunnel is for the greater good. You have to compromise."

[ image: Stonehenge stands less than 100yds from a major road]
Stonehenge stands less than 100yds from a major road
Spokesman for the Avebury Society Stonehenge interest group, Lord Kennett, said: "The wave of official opinion changes like thistle down from dawn to dusk.

"It was only four years ago that English Heritage and the National Trust were saying it was their solemn duty to do the exact opposite and build a deep bore tunnel."

The Treasury is only funding two-thirds of the project and Mr Smith has still to find the remaining finance.

Even if he succeeds, he still has to put the tunnel project and a plan for a badly-needed new visitors' centre before a planning inquiry, which could decide to throw them out.

World heritage

Mr Smith travelled to Wiltshire on Tuesday to consult with local government representatives and interest groups in an attempt to bolster support for the plan.

Stonehenge is a World Heritage site, placing it on a par with the Great Wall of China and the pyramids at Giza, in Egypt.

Opinion is divided, but most authorities date the construction of the final phase of Stonehenge to between 3000 and 1600 BC, possibly predating monuments like the Egyptian Sphinx.

Archaeologists have also failed to agree on how the heavy stones were transported from as far away as the Preseli Mountains in south Wales.

It is a feat of engineering that suggests a highly-organised and sophisticated society.

Stonehenge was the last of a series of circular structures on the same site aligned to the rising sun at the midsummer solstice.

Its purpose is unknown, although it has been suggested the site performed the function of a giant calendar.

Its mysterious origins have made it a gathering place for druids and other groups who celebrate the summer solstice.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

UK Contents

Northern Ireland
Relevant Stories

31 Jul 98 | Background
Stonehenge vibes going underground

Internet Links

English Heritage - Stonehenge

The National Trust

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Next steps for peace

Blairs' surprise over baby

Bowled over by Lord's

Beef row 'compromise' under fire

Hamilton 'would sell mother'

Industry misses new trains target

From Sport
Quins fightback shocks Cardiff

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

IRA ceasefire challenge rejected

Thousands celebrate Asian culture

From Sport
Christie could get two-year ban

From Entertainment
Colleagues remember Compo

Mother pleads for baby's return

Toys withdrawn in E.coli health scare

From Health
Nurses role set to expand

Israeli PM's plane in accident

More lottery cash for grassroots

Pro-lifers plan shock launch

Double killer gets life

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer

From UK Politics
Straw on trial over jury reform

Tatchell calls for rights probe into Mugabe

Ex-spy stays out in the cold

From UK Politics
Blair warns Livingstone

From Health
Smear equipment `misses cancers'

From Entertainment
Boyzone star gets in Christmas spirit

Fake bubbly warning

Murder jury hears dead girl's diary

From UK Politics
Germ warfare fiasco revealed

Blair babe triggers tabloid frenzy

Tourists shot by mistake

A new look for News Online