The Stonehenge World Heritage Site landscape is under threat – and urgent action is needed now to protect it. Left unchallenged, Highways England’s proposed road tunnel inside the boundaries of the World Heritage Site will irreversibly destroy large tracts of land and with it the hidden archaeology it contains – once gone, it will be gone forever.
We are a consortium of senior archaeologists and historians who have carried out most of the internationally recognised research within the Stonehenge WHS over the last 30 years. Several of us are members of the A303 Scientific Committee appointed by Highways England to advise it on the archaeological and wider heritage impacts of the tunnel scheme. Whilst we recognise that the A303 passing Stonehenge is often congested, it is our firm view that the tunnel scheme will cause immeasurable damage to this unique and internationally significant ritual landscape – the secrets of which we are still decoding. This would be a flagrant breach of the UK’s commitments to UNESCO under the World Heritage Convention, and it must be stopped! Watch this video prepared for the Stonehenge Alliance.
Mike Parker Pearson on the Stonehenge Tunnel Scheme
Julian Richards on the Stonehenge Tunnel Scheme in 2017
The location of both the Eastern and Western portals to the proposed tunnel inside the WHS will be a monstrous intrusion on the landscape, leaving deep scars long after the expiry of the tunnel’s shelf-life:
- Construction of the Eastern portal and associated ramps/flyovers risks altering the water table at the recently-discovered Mesolithic site of Blick Mead (c. 8000-3600BC) winner of the Current Archaeology 'Research Project of the Year' 2018, endangering preservation of the organic remains which are telling us so much about the lives of the hunter-gatherer groups who visited and occupied this area after the end of the last Ice Age.
- The road line would cut through the densest concentration in Britain of remains of Neolithic long barrows (burial mounds from c.3800-3300 BC) known in Britain. This is located in an area of less than 4sq km between Stonehenge and the western edge of the WHS. Dating to before Stonehenge, the long barrows’ distribution may have a bearing on why Stonehenge was located where it is.
- The proposed widening of the A303 from the Western portal to the western boundary of the WHS will similarly cause irreversible damage to hidden and known archaeology, as will the creation of construction access roads and the presence of heavy plant inside the WHS during the anticipated 5 year construction project.
Despite massive criticism of this controversial scheme during the public consultation process over the last 2 years, including UNESCO’s damning verdict, Highways England have pressed ahead with their preferred scheme regardless. They have applied for a Development Consent Order, and the Planning Inspectorate has commenced a statutory Examination process. To maximise our chances of opposing this scheme, we need to raise funding for expert legal representation during the Examination, which is why we are making this appeal. We understand the critical Preliminary Meeting will be arranged for early April, which means we have about 3 weeks to raise the initial target of £50,000, albeit that target will inevitably have to be stretched as the Examination proceeds.
We are in the process of setting up a charitable trust, to be known as the Stonehenge Preservation Trust, in order to manage this appeal and legal funding. In the meantime, if you share our concerns and determination to oppose this short-sighted scheme, no donation too small or too large! The key issue now is URGENCY, so if you want to help us to stop the tunnel scheme, please donate now.
We invite you to explore our website saveourstonehenge.org to find out more information, in particular on Blick Mead and other sites at risk, an explanation of the planning process, links to submissions and news articles.
Due to the complexity and seriousness of the issues involved as well as the National and International interest in Stonehenge and the preservation of the World Heritage Site not only is it important for us to seek expert legal advice but also vital that we choose a barristers’ set recognised for this very specialist area of work.
39 Essex Chambers have agreed to represent our cause. They were awarded Real Estate, Environment and Planning Set of the Year in The Legal 500, UK 2018 Awards, for the second successive year. In addition, they are four time winners of the Chambers & Partners Environment / Planning Set of the Year.
Peter Village Q.C. (Planning and Environment Silk of the year 2012) and Victoria Hutton (ranked as one of the top junior barristers at the planning bar) kindly put themselves forward and have already provided extensive pro bono advice to us, for which we are immensely grateful.
The extent and detail of the future work required from them, as matters progress, is such that ongoing pro bono assistance by them is impractical. As such a fee paying arrangement (but on a discounted basis) will be put in place; hence the funds we need to raise.
We are a consortium of leading archaeologists and historians who are opposed to Highways England's Stonehenge Tunnel scheme, having worked throughout our careers in this area we want to continue to preserve this important landscape so that future discoveries can be made. See our response to the public consultation here.
- Professor Mike Parker Pearson FBA FSA FSA(Scot) MCifA, University College London
- Dr Barry Bishop, University of Buckingham
- Professor Nick Branch FSA, University of Reading
- Professor Tony Brown, University of Southampton
- Brian Edwards, University of the West of England
- Dr David Field, formerly with English Heritage
- Professor Vince Gaffney FSA, University of Bradford
- Dr Nicholas James, University of Cambridge
- Professor David Jacques FSA, University of Buckingham
- Julian Richards FSA MIFA
- Professor Peter Rowley-Conwy FSA FSA(Scot) RSNA, University of Durham