The decision to upgrade the A303 alongside Stonehenge with a 2.1km
bored tunnel will deliver a dramatic improvement of the setting of
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
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
'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
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
'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.'
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
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:
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
'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.