12 September 2017Stonehenge and the A303
In our role as guardian of Stonehenge, English Heritage welcomes the Government’s plans to invest in a fully bored tunnel of at least 2.9km to remove a large part of the existing A303 from the Stonehenge World Heritage Site.
The Stonehenge World Heritage Site is famous throughout the world and is one of the most important prehistoric landscapes in Europe.
Today this landscape is split in two by a major road - the A303 - which acts as a barrier to people enjoying, exploring and understanding the World Heritage Site.
English Heritage wants to see the monument reconnected to its ancient landscape and the negative impact of roads within the World Heritage Site reduced. Great strides to achieve this vision have been made in recent years, including the removal of the old Stonehenge visitor facilities and the A344 road from the landscape.
But there is more to be done.
Tens of thousands of vehicles thunder past Stonehenge on the A303 every day. The heavy traffic and constant noise from the road compromises our enjoyment and understanding of the monument and the road cuts the stones off from much of the surrounding ancient landscape and many prehistoric monuments.
On 1 December 2014, the Government announced that it would invest in a fully bored tunnel of at least 2.9km to remove much of the A303 trunk road from the Stonehenge World Heritage Site. English Heritage, Historic England and the National Trust all welcomed the announcement, describing it as a 'momentous decision'.
It is vital that any tunnel scheme is in the right place and designed to the best specification. English Heritage along with Historic England and the National Trust will work with the Government, Highways England and other key parties, to find a solution that protects the Outstanding Universal Value of the World Heritage Site and addresses the adverse impacts the existing A303 has on this extraordinary place.
PREFERRED ROUTE ANNOUNCEMENT – SEPTEMBER 2017
On Tuesday 12 September 2017, following a public consultation earlier in the year (see below), the route for the Stonehenge Tunnel was published by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling.
English Heritage, Historic England and the National Trust welcome this repositioned route for the proposed A303 dual carriageway and tunnel past Stonehenge. We believe the amended route can, if designed and located with the utmost care, deliver a lasting legacy for the World Heritage Site and restore peace and tranquillity to the Stonehenge landscape.
The three heritage organisations are pleased that Highways England has improved the route of the road as it travels through the World Heritage Site, particularly in relation to the winter solstice alignment.
We remain committed to working with and constructively challenging Highways England to deliver a final design that protects and enhances the World Heritage Site. We will examine the specific details of the tunnel and road design when they become available.
Public Consultation - January 2017
In January 2017, Highways England launched a public consultation on initial road improvement options including a tunnel scheme of at least 2.9km.
"This proposal is a big step in the right direction," said Kate Mavor, English Heritage's Chief Executive.
"We have already seen the benefits of removing the old visitor facilities and grassing over the A344. The proposed tunnel could complete that transformation and finally do justice to our greatest prehistoric monument, dramatically improving its setting and reconnecting it with the wider landscape.
"We do have concerns about particular aspects of the proposals which we will share with Highways England and we will continue to look carefully at the plans as they evolve."
Along with our heritage partners, Historic England and the National Trust, English Heritage welcomed the proposals as a big step forward but are very clear there is more work to be done and highlighted the following three points:
- The proposed tunnel would remove the majority - circa 3km - of the intrusive existing A303 from the Stonehenge World Heritage Site, opening up the extraordinary ancient landscape to the public
- The tunnel's eastern portal would allow for the restoration of the Stonehenge Avenue, the ancient processional route to the stones - a major improvement on previous road improvement schemes
- The proposed western portal for the tunnel needs significant improvement, due to its proximity to the Normanton Down barrow group - an important group of Neolithic and Early Bronze Age ceremonial and funerary monuments.
As part of the public consultation, we have provided a formal response to help ensure that Highways England delivers a scheme that does justice to this unique site.