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'STONEHENGE WILL BE REUNITED WITH ITS NATURAL LANDSCAPE BY 2008'

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Two km bored tunnel will remove A303 from World Heritage site...
Two km bored tunnel will remove A303 from World Heritage site

The decision to upgrade the A303 alongside Stonehenge with a 2.1km

bored tunnel will deliver a dramatic improvement of the setting of

the site and enable people to enjoy and appreciate Britain's greatest

prehistoric monument, arts minister Tessa Blackstone said today.

The minister was reacting to today's package of transport

improvements, announced by the secretary of state for transport,

Alastair Darling, which included proposals for the A303*.

Tessa Blackstone said:

'This is a great day for Stonehenge. The decision to go ahead with a

bored tunnel near the site is a better solution than previous plans

for a cut and cover tunnel. It will ensure Stonehenge is reunited

with its surrounding monuments in their natural downland landscape

setting, protect the site from heavy traffic, and make possible the

construction of a world class visitor centre.

'Stonehenge is one of this country's great heritage attractions and

one of the most important World Heritage Sites. For many years poor

facilities at the site and inadequate transport links have prevented

visitors from experiencing the real majesty and mystery of the

stones. The tunnel along with improved visitor facilities will

deliver many of the objectives of the Management Plan for the

Stonehenge World Heritage Site. It will ensure that future

generations will have better access to the site and a more informed

experience.'

Neil Cossons, chairman of English Heritage, said: 'This is

fantastic news. We very warmly welcome the secretary of state for

transport's decision for a 2.1km bored tunnel on the A303 adjacent to

Stonehenge.

'Today's news is an important moment in Stonehenge's 5000 year

history. It means that Stonehenge gets the dignified setting it so

justly deserves, the roads are made safer and the core area of the

World Heritage Site landscape is reunited.

'We are pleased that the transport secretary has fully taken our

recent advice on this issue that a cut and cover tunnel is now

unacceptable.'

Professor Barry Cunliffe, Institute of Archaeology, Oxford, said:

'This is wonderful news that will safeguard Stonehenge and its

landscape and shows at last that all of government is taking

responsibility for the historic environment.'

The minister said that the government had considered a number of

tunnel options for the site both in terms of type of construction and

length. The additional work done by the Highways Agency had shown

that a bored tunnel, although more expensive, delivered the be st

solution in terms of protecting the archaeological heritage and wider

environmental concerns. There were also transport advantages,

particularly during construction.

Tessa Blackstone concluded:

'As well as the major benefits to Stonehenge the government's plans

for the A303 will have many other advantages. They will improve

traffic flow, considerably improve access to the south-west for both

visitors and industry, and relieve local villages of heavy

congestion.

'I am delighted that this decision has been agreed. We can now press

ahead with our plans to complete the Stonehenge project in line with

our original timetable of 2008. Draft orders for construction of the

road will be published early next year.'

Notes

1. The estimated cost of the bored tunnel is£183m (including VAT).

The scheme will be jointly financed from the Highways Agency budget

and heritage sources.

2. The government considered all options for the site from doing

nothing to a 4.5km bored tunnel. The investigation showed that a cut

and cover would not only damage the archaeology and affect the

landscape, it would also increase traffic disruption during

construction. The 4.5km bored tunnel would have been prohibitively

expensive, costing over£400m, and would also have had serious

environmental disbenefits and delayed completion of the whole project

to 2012.

3. The entire scheme consists of a flyover at the Countess East

junction, the tunnel and a dual carriageway by - pass for the nearby

village of Winterbourne Stoke.

4. Subject to the Statutory Procedures being completed on schedule it

is hoped to start construction in 2005. The scheme will open in

stages with the flyover being completed by 2007 and the rest of the

scheme in 2008.

5. Images of the Stonehenge site, showing how the proposed bored

tunnel will improve the landscape, and of the bored tunnel itself are

available on the heritage sector of the DCMS website:

http://www.culture.gov.uk/heritage

STONEHENGE DECISION: SUPPORTIVE QUOTES

The following have issued statements reacting to today's news

Julian Richards, archaeologist and BBC broadcaster, said:

'There can be no doubting the importance of Stonehenge and its

landscape - World Heritage Site, icon of our prehistoric past. Many

of us who care deeply about this place have been worried that

decisions would be made that would irrevocably damage this most

sensitive of archaeological landscapes. But these anxieties are now

over - with the announcement that a tunnel is to be bored beneath the

most sensitive part of the Stonehenge landscape. A bold and wonderful

decision - the best news about Stonehenge that I've heard for years!'

Tony Robinson, Presenter of Channel 4's Time Team, said:

'This is fantastic news, At last the future of Stonehenge and its

heartland is assured.'

Professor John C Barrett, head of department in the department of

archaeology and prehistory at Sheffield University said:

'This is excellent news. At last Stonehenge, one of the greatest

achievements of the ancient world, will be given the setting that it

deserves.

'Archaeologists, environmentalists and the wider community should

welcome the decision to fund the 2.1km bored tunnel for the A303 at

Stonehenge. Neither the plan to cut the tunnel from above, nor the

suggestion for a longer 4.5 km bored tunnel, seem credible. Cutting

the tunnel would have caused considerable archaeological and

environmental destruction at the heart of the World Heritage site.

The longer bored tunnel is not justified in terms of cost. Stonehenge

and its landscape allow us to encounter something of the mystery and

power of the prehistoric world. This proposal opens the way for a far

greater appreciation of that world.'

* See £5.5BN PACKAGE OF TRANSPORT IMPROVEMENTSon LGCnet.

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