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Proposals for tunnel past Stonehenge finally announced.

For those of you who have visited Stonenhenge you may remember that there is a mjor roadway very close by. There have been discussions since 1989 on providing a tunnel Traffic close to Stonehengeunderneath the landscape to remove the noise and blot on the landscape. One set of proposals nearly came to fruition in 2009, but were dropped on financial grounds. New proposals have been in the pipeline for the last couple of years including a major consulation with archaeologists, heritage bodies, and the general public. There was a significant objections by a leading group of archaologists which we include in a blog on the Stonehenge tunnel proposals.

One major objection was the western tunnel entrance portal was in the direct line of the winter solstice sunset - probably the key astronomical alignment in the landscape! Highways England (the government body responsible for roads) managed to miss this fundamental point when drawing up the road scheme.Thank fully the tunnel has been moved 50 metres away from that alignment.

Route of Stonehenge tunnel

Proposed route for Stonehenge tunnel.

The route for the £1.6 billion A303 upgrade near Stonehenge is not just about the stones, but part of an improvement of the infrastructure down to the south west ie Somerset, Devon & Cornwall.

If you are into government speak it is:

'A key part of the ‘South West expressway’, has today (12 September 2017) been published by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling.

Linking the M3 in the south-east and the M5 in the south-west, the ‘expressway’ will upgrade this key route and improve journey times for millions of people. This major investment will support economic growth and tourism in an area where congestion and slow journeys have long had a negative impact on the region’s economy.

A tunnel near Stonehenge will remove the traffic blight on local communities and enhance the famous landmark. It will reconnect the 2 halves of the 6,500 acre World Heritage site which is currently split by the road, and remove the sight and sound of traffic from the Stonehenge landscape.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said:

This government is taking the big decisions for Britain’s future and this major investment in the south-west will provide a huge boost for the region.

Quicker journey times, reduced congestion and cleaner air will benefit people locally and unlock growth in the tourism industry.

The scheme will also support 120,000 extra jobs and 100,000 new homes across the region, helping us build a country that works for everyone.

The A303 upgrade between Amesbury and Berwick Down is a key part of the government’s £15 billion road strategy - the biggest investment in roads in a generation. The scheme includes the 1.8 mile-long tunnel, a free-flowing dual carriageway and a much-needed bypass north of Winterbourne Stoke.

Secretary of State for Culture, Karen Bradley said:

Stonehenge has captured the imagination of people around the world for centuries and is a site of global importance. With over 1 million visitors a year it is one of the jewels in the UK’s crown and it is important that we preserve it for generations to come. This investment from the government will help make the visitor experience much more enjoyable and this is good news for local residents and businesses who will benefit from the new route.

The government will also continue to work closely with key heritage bodies to ensure this scheme respects and protects the Stonehenge World Heritage site.'

This is not the end of the story though. There is another year of consultations. A key factor may be UNESCO who has some influence over the proposals, but not a direct say. If, and it's a big if, the proposals come to fruition, building is likely to start in 2020/21 with a finish date of about 2026.

Watch this space.....

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