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Thursday, 18 October, 2001, 11:42 GMT 12:42 UK
Stonehenge road plans 'may damage site'
Stonehenge is designated as a world heritage site
Stonehenge could be badly damaged by a planned new road scheme, leading pressure groups are warning.

The government is proposing to make the A303 into a dual carriageway close to the ancient site on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire as part of a master plan for the site.

It has a "preferred route" that would include a 1.2-mile (2km) long "cut-and-cover" tunnel near the stones to hide some of the road.

But transport, environment and archaeology organisations have formed an alliance to warn that the site would suffer if the proposals went ahead.

The Highways Agency must not treat Stonehenge as an obstacle to plans for a motorway style link from London to Penzance

Denise Carlo
Transport 2000
The groups say that many acres of sensitive archaeological landscape would be greatly disturbed, ancient sites destroyed and the wider landscape setting permanently disfigured.

Much of the land involved belongs to the National Trust. It is now under pressure from some members to reconsider the proposals.

The trust said it is working with the scheme's partners to deliver an "exceptional environmental road scheme" for the A303.

An alternative road solution was approved by informed consensus in 1995, including English Heritage and the National Trust.

The plans were for a 2.4-mile (4km) long bored tunnel under the whole site, less visible than a cut-and-cover tunnel.

Although technically feasible, it was rejected by the government in 1997 as unaffordable.

'Cheap option'

Kate Freeman of Wiltshire Friends of the Earth said: "All parties agreed at the 1995 conference that Stonehenge must have the best solution.

"But that hard-won consensus has been thrown out by the government in favour of the cheap and dirty option."

Kate Fielden of Wiltshire Council for the Protection of Rural England said: "Stonehenge is much more than the stones alone.

"The whole area is a remarkable complex of ancient remains which deserves the strongest protection. This is why it has been designated a World Heritage Site."

"It is scandalous to propose carving a huge trench through one of the best known and most important archaeological landscapes in the world."

Denise Carlo of Transport 2000 said: "The Highways Agency must not be allowed to treat Stonehenge as a mere obstacle to its ground plans for a motorway style link from London to Penzance."

Historic setting

The Highways Agency said the master plan will return the site to its historic setting.

The Agency said: "The master plan vision will mean Stonehenge and its surrounding landscape will not be cut through by busy roads with all the noise, visual and air pollution of 21st century travel."

Experts believe the famous stones, which receive about one million visitors a year, were erected 5,000 years ago.

The stones carry deep mystical and religious significance for druids and other groups who go to see how they are in alignment with the first rays of light on midsummer's day every year.

See also:

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The lure of Stonehenge
09 Jun 00 | Sci/Tech
Stonehenge execution revealed
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