Stonehenge: Public Consultation on A303 Road Improvement Scheme

Project
Stonehenge landscape


The Stonehenge Landscape is one of the most important prehistoric landscapes in Europe. As custodians of the Stonehenge Landscape we welcome the Government’s plans to invest in a fully bored tunnel of at least 2.9km to remove a large part of the existing A303 from the Stonehenge World Heritage Site.

Together with Historic England and English Heritage Trust we have issued our interim response to the initial route options put forward for public consultation by Highways England.

Feb 2017

The benefits of a tunnel

We believe the proposed A303 tunnel of at least 2.9km within the Stonehenge World Heritage Site would remove the majority of the existing damaging road and its traffic from the World Heritage Site, finally reuniting the north and south sides of this extraordinary ancient landscape and allowing people to enjoy and understand it better.

It would also allow for the reinstatement of the line of the Stonehenge Avenue, an ancient processional route to the stones. This is the first time that a Government scheme to improve the A303 within the Stonehenge landscape has recognised the importance of the Avenue.

Areas for improvement
However, we believe (along with Historic England and English Heritage Trust) that the Government’s current proposals for the tunnel’s western portal are a cause for concern and need significant improvement.

This is due to the portal’s current proximity to the Normanton Down barrow group, an important group of Neolithic and Early Bronze Age ceremonial and funerary monuments.

We believe that these concerns could be resolved with careful and sensitive revision to the positioning and design of the western portal and its road alignment and we will continue to work with Highways England to find an alignment and design for the western portal which is appropriate for this internationally-important place and protects its Outstanding Universal Value. 

As part of the formal response to the consultation, we will provide detailed feedback to Highways England to help to ensure the western portal road alignment and design is right for this internationally-important place.


Our key consultation responses

1.    The tunnel would remove the majority of the damaging and intrusive surface A303 from the Stonehenge World Heritage Site, enabling people to explore it better 
The Stonehenge World Heritage Site is known and valued throughout the world as one of the most important prehistoric landscapes.

Today this landscape is split in two by the A303 with tens of thousands of vehicles thundering past Stonehenge every day. The heavy traffic and constant noise from the road compromises the setting and people’s enjoyment of the monuments and the road cuts the stones off from a large part of the surrounding ancient landscape and many other prehistoric monuments.  

Removing the A303 with a bored tunnel of at least 2.9km would reunite the ancient landscape enable people to walk from the northern part of the World Heritage Site to explore  the many monuments that lie to the south of the A303.

2.    The tunnel’s eastern portal would allow for the reinstatement of the line of the Stonehenge Avenue.

A major improvement on the present surface road is that the proposed location of the tunnel’s eastern portal would allow the reinstatement of the line of the Stonehenge Avenue - an ancient processional route leading to the Stonehenge monument - where it is currently severed by the busy A303. 

This is the first time that a Government scheme to improve the A303 within the Stonehenge landscape has recognised the importance of the Avenue and it would be a great improvement on previous road improvement schemes. 
While this is a big step forward, it is critical that the infrastructure is designed and located sensitively if this improvement is to be properly realised.

3.    The proposed western portal for the tunnel needs significant improvement.

The western tunnel portal location as shown in the consultation documents needs significant improvement, due to its proximity to and impact on the Normanton Down barrow group. This is one of the key groups of ceremonial and funerary monuments for which the World Heritage Site is designated.

As part of the formal response to the consultation, we will provide detailed feedback to Highways England to help to ensure the western portal road alignment and design is right for this internationally-important place.
 

Seeking UNESCO’s view

On the invitation of the Government, a delegation from the UNESCO World Heritage Centre and their heritage advisors ICOMOS, re-visited the Stonehenge World Heritage Site in February 2017. This was their second visit to the Stonehenge landscape, following an initial mission in 2015 which provided constructive advice on the potential for a scheme . The return visit in 2017 gave them the opportunity to consider the route options during the public consultation period and to further advise on and shape the emerging scheme.

Next steps
The first of Highways England’s two planned consultations for the A303 Stonehenge scheme launched on 12 January and runs until 5 March. A number of public information events have been held for people to give their feedback, and further information is available online here.

We will be submitting our full response to this first round of consultation before it closes on 
5 March.

There will be another round of consultation on Highways England’s more detailed proposed solution later in 2017 before they submit their Development Consent Order application to the Planning Inspectorate in 2018.