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Stonehenge tunnel plans altered

Stonehenge tunnel plans altered

The government is to go ahead with the construction of a 1.8-mile tunnel under the Stonehenge site, after moving the route by 50 metres.

It will locate the new A303 tunnel slightly further away from the famous prehistoric stone circle, following protests from archaeologists and druids. Among the concerns were the possibility of disturbance to Bronze-age burial sites and the visual impact on the sunrise at the midwinter solstice, an event that attracts crowds of druids, pagans and new-agers every year. 

There has also been speculation that the tunnel could jeopardise the site's Unesco World Heritage status. However, Stonehenge is not on the list of sites regarded by the body as in danger of being spoiled by inappropriate development, unlike Liverpool's Maritime Mercantile City.  

Indeed, the tunnel offers the chance to improve the environment around Stonehenge, as the 6,000-acre site will no longer have a noisy road running through the middle of it. Highways England chief executive Jim O'Sullivan commented: "The A303 and the World Heritage site has suffered from congestion for many years. This scheme will enhance, protect and restore tranquillity to one of the UK’s most iconic landscapes."

Transport secretary Chris Grayling said the project would help boost the economy through better road connectivity, with this helping create 120,000 extra jobs and facilitate the construction of 100,000 additional homes. 

Costing £1.6 billion, the tunnel project is one of three stretches of road on the A303 and connecting A38 up to Taunton in Somerset that will be improved in order to reduce traffic congestion in the south-west. The other projects will involved dualling work, and there will also be a new bypass to divert traffic to the north of the village of Winterbourne Stoke.

Stonehenge was close to major trading routes when it was built 5,000 years ago, and is made from bluestone that the affluent people living in the area were able to buy and transport from the Preseli Mountains in Wales.

Image: iStock

 

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