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Wednesday, 14 February 2018 22:02

Stonehenge Stonehenge Alliance


Formal Consultation on A303 Stonehenge, 9 February – 6 April 2018

Highways England’s formal consultation on widening the A303 from Amesbury to Berwick Down is under way.  

Documentation and a programme of exhibitions on the scheme can be accessed on Highways England’s website

A summary of the scheme with maps etc. can be accessed here.

The consultation response form can be either printed and posted to Highways England or completed online here.

CPRE Wiltshire, as a supporter of the Stonehenge Alliance, will be responding to the consultation after studying the documentation. Our overall stance, based as usual on the planning policy framework that exists for the county, is unlikely to change.

The A303 proposals are much as for the preferred route announced last September, including a 1.8-mile twin-bored tunnel. Both tunnel portals would avoid National Trust land. The east tunnel entrances would sit within a Bronze Age barrow group and the ‘Nile Clumps’, threatening the integrity of the ancient Avenue and its enjoyment by visitors. The nearby Mesolithic site of Blick Mead would be dominated by a massive flyover, which would also impact adversely on Amesbury Abbey (Grade I Listed) and its Registered Park, as well as the Amesbury Conservation Area.

The west tunnel portals would lie not far south of the present A303, near Normanton Gorse wood. Thence the new 4-lane highway would continue in a deep cutting and below a major A360 interchange close to the boundary of the World Heritage Site (WHS) involving two roundabouts with slip roads and a bridge over the A303 between them. The cutting would pass close beside the enigmatic ‘Wilsford Shaft’, apparently used for ritual purposes or as a well (or both) throughout the Bronze Age, and possibly also during the Neolithic. This area of the WHS is also significant for its unique grouping of Neolithic long barrows located around the head of a dry valley, including the upstanding monument after which Longbarrow Roundabout is named. Already crossed by the A303, the physical division of this focal area of the pre-henge use of the landscape would be made far greater with a c. 26 yards-wide highway-cutting between the northernmost of these long barrows, interrupting the integrity of their placement and original purpose. Geophysical survey work is likely to reveal more of interest in this hitherto largely uninvestigated area.

The new, dualled A303 would continue, with a bridge over the River Till, as a northern bypass for Winterbourne Stoke, rejoining the present A303 via the southern boundary of Parsonage Down National Nature Reserve.

Archaeological evaluation is incomplete, as are the geotechnical surveys and assessments of various impacts on the environment, such as noise and air pollution. These details will be revealed at a later stage. It is clear that there will be inconvenience during the c.5 years of construction and afterwards, at times when the tunnel is closed for whatever reason.

A recently-published account of the geology of the WHS, using data obtained for the Highways Agency in connection with the previous A303 tunnelling scheme, has revealed more information about the presence of phosphatic ‘soft’ chalk, a fluctuating water table which can reach the surface, and the presence of radon. All of these factors give rise to concerns which may be compounded following the outcome of further investigations to be undertaken.

The scheme would impact adversely on the setting of the WHS and key archaeological sites within it, and could destroy as yet unidentified archaeological remains. It would impact adversely on Listed Buildings and a Conservation Area, and on Nature Reserves.

Of particular concern is that UNESCO has condemned the road scheme. Last July, its World Heritage Committee advised the Government to explore options for the A303 scheme that did not involve dual carriageway cuttings within the WHS. In view of the Government’s disregard of UNESCO’s advice, we may see Stonehenge placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger unless the scheme is halted.

Highways England’s questionnaire does not allow for objections to the scheme. We suggest that objectors should make their views known in any event. Please check the Stonehenge Alliance website  for further information.

Suggestions for online questionnaire responses are given here; and a shorter pro forma response facility which can be altered in your own words is also available here.

An independently-produced video explaining why the road scheme would damage the WHS can be viewed here.

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