Stonehenge world heritage status could be in danger

Stonehenge world heritage status could be in danger

Published by The Spire FM News Team at 6:20am 11th September 2017. (Updated at 11:11am 5th October 2017)

Some opponents say it could be taken away if the government build a tunnel.

Historians and campaign groups are warning Stonehenge could have its famous World Heritage status taken away if the Government builds a tunnel underneath it.

Opponents say it would be "disastrous" for tourism, but people living near the Wiltshire site have been fighting a 20-year battle to ease traffic jams that bring the roads around Stonehenge to a standstill.

A decision is expected tomorrow (Tuesday 12th Sept).

The main roads around the 5,000-year-old site are clogged daily with commuters and tourists and the A303 is often labelled as Britain's worst bottleneck.

The Government wants to build a 1.8-mile long tunnel underneath Stonehenge, which it says it would be deep enough not to damage the archaeology of the site.

Stonehenge A303 Tunnel Opening 5 (Highways England)

The National Trust backs the plan. It does not want nearby roads widened because, it argues, they could be seen from the site.

However, some Trust members, such as Kate Fielden, are now urging it not to support the plan.

Ms Fielden, who is also secretary of the Stonehenge Alliance, said:

"The deep cuttings, the lights, the gantries, the signage - all those things that go with a... four-lane highway - will damage the integrity - by the sight and sound of it - of a number of really important monuments in this landscape."

"Stonehenge has been designated a site of outstanding universal value by UNESCO and I think it would be very poor of us as humanity to treat it in such a disrespectful manner."

Summer Solstice 2017 Stonehenge 14 (Faye Marsh)

It is a fear shared by many archaeologists, who believe it could mean Stonehenge losing its World Heritage Status, reserved for the globe's most historically valuable sites.

UNESCO is not ruling it out.

Isabelle Anatole-Gabriel, Chief of Europe and North America at UNESCO, said:

"We are not there, we have to assess first what are the potential impacts of any changes which might occur on the values of the site and on its integrity."

"The organisation has already advised the Government not to go ahead with the tunnel as it is planned; previously ruling in a report in June that the development would cause "considerable damage".

But for many who live nearby, they have had to endure two decades of traffic jams that completely clog the A303 and send cars trying to avoid the queues through neighbouring villages.

Janice Hassett, from the Stonehenge Traffic Action Group, said:

"Our village of Shrewton is packed with traffic every day and older people can't even cross the road to get to the doctors' surgery."

Former prime minister David Cameron promised money for the tunnel scheme back in 2014. When challenged on the fact that agreements had been made to do something about the situation before, he pledged:

"This is different because the green light is on; I've put it on and the money can be spent today, tomorrow - getting going on the plan that needs be put in place."

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