Latest campaign news
Last updated: 18 September 2008
If you use RSS (a way of getting news headlines delivered automatically to your web browser), why not try our new RSS feed? For a list of new things on the website, please look at the latest additions page.
News items since September 2008 are published on the RSS feed.
Here's Kate Fielden latest, Autumn 2008 update for RESCUE news covering all the latest developments on Stonehenge.
What's happening to Stonehenge now? Kate Fielden has written another of her excellent, occasional updates for RESCUE news updating us on the latest position.
There's lots of interest in reaching common ground over Stonehenge. We've dusted down our alternatives summarizing what we see as the way forward.
Friends of the Earth's South West campaigner Mike Birkin wrote a handy little briefing (PDF format) about the transport issues facing Stonehenge back in May of this year and it's well worth another look. This is what Mike had to say about the way forward:
Friends of the Earth and partners in the Stonehenge Alliance believe the key principles for future developments at Stonehenge are:
We propose the following measures, which may or may not be thought of as "intermediate", to fit in with these principles and improve the setting and experience of Stonehenge:
- Stonehenge is more important than the A303. The requirements for long term protection and management of the Stonehenge landscape -- that is, the World Heritage Site as a whole -- must take precedence over other considerations.
- Nothing irreversible should be done which further damages the physical fabric of the World Heritage Site. This would rule out any above ground road widening within the site boundary.
- Transport measures should aim principally to reduce traffic, carbon emissions and other adverse impacts of road transport.
- Closure of the junction of the A303 and A344 and removal of the A344 between this junction and the present visitor centre. This has benefits for the safety of road travellers and removes the road which passes closest to the stones.
- Comprehensive speed management on the A303 from Countess Roundabout to the western end of Winterbourne Stoke.
- Retention of the visitor centre on its present site. Plans for a new centre at Countess are dependent on major road upgrades and associated with new infrastructure within the World Heritage Site. Removal of the A344 allows much more scope to re-design the present facilities.
- A high intensity travel plan for Stonehenge to incentivise and maximise the proportion of visitors arriving by public transport, coach, cycle or on foot.
- A corridor travel plan for the A303 as a whole to reduce road traffic and its impacts.
We'd also like to remind you of the Achievable Stonehenge plan that our friends at Heritage Action have been promoting. With huge expensive tunnels no longer on the table, Achievable Stonehenge is now the way forward for making an immediate improvement to the setting of the stone circle:
- Alternatives: Our summary of alternative plans for stonehenge.
- Heritage Action Achievable Stonehenge campaign.
- Radical solution proposed for Stonehenge, Guardian, 7 October 2006.
It's official. Christmas has come early for Stonehenge: the tunnel scheme has finally been scrapped!
- A303 Stonehenge Improvement Scheme, Statement by Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Tom Harris), 6 December 2007.
- A303 Stonehenge improvement scheme: Decision letter and Stage 2 report, Official decision letter and reports explaining the decision, 6 December 2007.
- Stonehenge tunnel plans scrapped, BBC News, 6 December 2007.
- "International jubilation" as £540-million road scheme scrapped, Save Stonehenge press release, 6 December 2007.
- Press statement by the Stonehenge Alliance, 6 December 2007.
- Stonehenge decision averts disaster, Campaign for Better Transport press release, 6 December 2007.
- Stonehenge road scheme announcement, English Heritage statement, 6 December 2007.
- Government announcement on Stonehenge tunnel scheme, National Trust statement, 6 December 2007.
- Stonehenge debate, Hansard, 6 December 2007.
More dithering from the government? More procrastination? Salisbury MP Robert Key just asked "the Secretary of State for Transport when she plans to announce her decision on the A303(T) improvement scheme" in parliament. The reply, from Tom Harris: "We are considering the findings of the inter-departmental review of the Stonehenge improvement scheme and alternative options together with the results of more recent traffic surveys and analysis carried out by the Highways Agency. We expect to announce our decision on the A303(T) improvement scheme later in 2007".
- Stonehenge parliamentary question: 161076, 25 October 2007.
Margaret Hodge has told the House of Commons that there will soon be an announcement about the future of Stonehenge. In a reply to a written parliamentary question by Toby Elwood on 15th October, she said: "The Government are currently considering the findings of the inter-Departmental Review of Options for the A303 Stonehenge Improvement and will make an announcement shortly on the way forward."
- Stonehenge parliamentary question: 155776, 15 October 2007.
New heritage minister Margaret Hodge has told the Salisbury Journal that she will "sort out" road problems at Stonehenge as a matter of priority. Quite what this means is anyone's guess. Hodge is not in the cabinet (she's neither Secretary of State for Transport or Culture), so whether she has enough clout to make Stonehenge an issue remains to be seen.
- Minister promises to sort out Stones road problems, Salisbury Journal, 13 September 2007.
A new survey of tourist sites shows people hate visiting Stonehenge, though no more so than the Eiffel Tower. But that doesn't mean we have to go to the opposite extreme and turn Stonehenge into a giant, plastic-coated theme park with motorway access, which is what English Heritage would apparently like us to do. We can provide simple, appropriate visitor facilities, improved access, and a massively improved "visitor experience" simply by removing the A344 road that runs next to the site—and we could start doing that tomorrow.
- Tourist sites prove turn-offs, BBC News, 17 August 2007.
An interesting BBC Radio 4 programme called National Treasures asks: "Should we spend £500 million on preserving the natural landscape of the Thames Estuary or transforming Stonehenge into a visitor attraction worthy of World Heritage Status?"
- Stonehenge versus the Thames Estuary, BBC Radio 4 website, 8 August 2007.
Despite the recent Sunday Times article, the latest information we have is that no decision has yet been made on Stonehenge and all the options remain open. We'll keep you posted. Please subscribe to the RSS feed to be informed immediately of latest news and other additions to the website.
A report in today's Sunday Times suggests that a decision on the Stonehenge plan is imminent and that... the road scheme is to be dropped! Needless to say, English Heritage is playing this up as an alarming thing rather than a victory for common sense. But then English Heritage has been spearheading attempts to destroy a swathe of the World Heritage Site with a massively expanded road since the 1990s. Remember how EH initially championed bulldozing a cut-and-cover tunnel—a mighty great gouge right through the ancient landscape? EH has never had any interest in saving Stonehenge—only turning it into a giant moneyspinning theme park. We have no definite confirmation of any decision yet, but we'll post news if and when we hear any.
- Stonehenge world heritage status at risk as tunnel plan is shelved, Sunday Times, 22 July 2007.
That's what people keep asking us! We've heard some more rumours recently that there may be a decision soon, but there is still no reliable or firm news. To be honest, we've been hearing these rumours for months now. We will post any information here as soon as we receive it. When a decision is made, we'll send out an immediate email to the email list.
Meanwhile, Kate Fielden has written another update for RESCUE news updating us on recent happenings.
Further to the news that the new Visitor Centre could go ahead, the National Trust has reaffirmed its commitment to a proper solution at Stonehenge. Here's its regional press statement issued on 30th March:
"The National Trust welcomes the intention to provide new facilities for visitors, with a Car and Coach Park, outside the Stonehenge World Heritage Site and its sensitive landscapes. The Trust looks forward to the opportunity to restore much of the tranquillity of the stones and surrounding monuments.
However, the Trust's support for the Visitor Facilities and Access Scheme hinges substantially on the completion of a tunnel of acceptable length or an alternative which removes traffic while protecting the integrity of the World Heritage Site.� In the Trust's view the Published Scheme, with its 2.1km of tunnel and about 3.4km of surface dual carriageway within the World Heritage Site, fails to meet this vision.
The National Trust first acquired land at Stonehenge in 1927, "to restore an earlier condition of things by the removal of unsightly objects" rather than to protect the status quo. We would have difficulty allowing the introduction of a transit scheme over our land without first ensuring the removal of the even more unsightly A303 and A344. The Trust cannot accept the introduction of a new road for a Land Train through land it protects permanently for the benefit of everyone while, a short distance away, traffic still roars along open stretches of dual carriageway."
British government minister Ruth Kelly has announced that the proposed new Stonehenge visitor centre can go ahead if the government also approves the contentious road scheme. Naturally, English Heritage is now pushing hard for a decision on the road too.
- Our Stonehenge visitor plan approved, BBC News, 29 March 2007.
- Official decision letter from the Department of Communities and Local Government, 28 March 2007.
We're hearing vague rumours that there may soon be a decision on the Stonehenge road (and presumably visitor centre?) from the British government—but there's no firm news yet.
Meanwhile, Kate Fielden has written another of her occasional updates for RESCUE news updating us on recent happenings.
A two-week public inquiry into English Heritage's proposed new £67 million Stonehenge visitor centre began in Salisbury on 5 December and has now finished. Save Stonehenge opposes the current visitor centre plan; the Stonehenge Alliance gave detailed evidence against the plan at the inquiry.
- Salisbury District Council's explanation of why the inquiry was held.
- Summary of the Stonehenge Alliance's closing statement (PDF format).
- Our inquiry page contains summaries of the evidence the Stonehenge Alliance presented.
Members of the Stonehenge Alliance have now submitted their objections to the forthcoming public inquiry into English Heritage's proposed Stonehenge visitor centre. The detailed "proofs of evidence", as the formal objections are known, cover the impacts on archaeology, rivers, landscape, noise, and transport and also consider how the plans relate to local, national, regional, and international planning policy. You can read the summaries of these documents on our inquiry page.
Stonehenge campaigners Lord and Lady Kennet published this splendid, pithy letter in The Independent on 9 November 2006:
Sir: "Troubled Stonehenge 'lacks magic' " you headline a story (3 November). Four hundred "conservation and tourism experts", we are told, working for the National Geographic magazine, give our grandest monument only 56 points out of a possible 100 in their survey of World Heritage Sites. Stonehenge is "in moderate trouble", they say, "over-loved" and "lacking magic", because of the numbers of people and the proximity of busy roads.
Responding, English Heritage tells you that its plans for a £67m "revamp" have been repeatedly delayed: they want "to persuade the Government to approve a new underground visitor centre and remove all traffic from the area".
In fact English Heritage's plans do not include letting people get among the stones, which is where the magic is felt; nor do they propose limiting numbers. They want to have "land trains" all over the grassland of the World Heritage Site; and, actually within the World Heritage Site itself, they propose deep cuttings for entrances to tunnels for a newly dualled A303, slicing the western part of the WHS in two.
These plans are deeply wrong, and objected to by most of the relevant, well-informed, bodies. What is being suggested instead is something far less aggressive: closing the A344 (the road immediately by the stones); improving the existing (neglected) visitors' centre; and, in line with thought about global warming, avoiding needless expenditure on new roads. This would give time to consider how to deal with the A303, which in any case is not an urgent matter.
Kate Fielden has just written another of her excellent, occasional updates for RESCUE news, which spells out the latest developments on the Stonehenge road and visitor centre plans. Thanks to Kate for letting us reproduce it here
According to an item in The Guardian (7th October), Professor Peter Fowler, an internationally acknowledged expert on the Stonehenge landscape and on World Heritage Sites management, has "washed his hands" of the whole Stonehenge road argument. Instead of a costly damaging road scheme, tunnel, and visitor centre, Prof Fowler advocates a minimal road solution at Stonehenge, including a more sensitive, smaller-scale visitor centre. Sound familiar? Save Stonehenge has been promoting this "radical solution" for almost a decade. Our friends at Heritage Action are promoting a similar plan, called Achieveable Stonehenge, to break the deadlock.
- Radical solution proposed for Stonehenge, Guardian, 7 October 2006.
- Heritage Action Achievable Stonehenge campaign.
In a strange turn of events, the Stonehenge visitor centre plan, which was turned down last year on various planning grounds (see below), has now been granted approval by Salisbury District Council—even though the plan is absolutely identical! The Countess Road Residents' Group, which has fought the plan for the last seven years or so, has reacted angrily to the decision.
- Council approves Stonehenge visitor centre plans, 24dash.com, 12 July 2006.
- Countess Road group speaks out, Salisbury Journal/This is Wiltshire, 24 July 2006.
The National Trust is stepping up its campaign against the British government's plans for Stonehenge— and its general lack of interest in the historic environment. In today's Guardian, the Trust argued that Stonehenge could be stripped of its status as a world heritage site because of "second-rate" government proposals to ease traffic congestion at the monument. In an open letter to the British government, Sir William Proby, chairman of the National Trust, said: "If the government is unable to commit to implementing an acceptable long-term solution for Stonehenge then it would be better to make no long-term commitment. We should not tie the hands of future generations." National Trust director Fiona Reynolds ruled out temporary solutions that would involve upgrading the road either side of the World Heritage Site: "That would just point two barrels of a gun across the world heritage site."
- Road plans put Stonehenge status at risk , The Guardian, Wednesday 14 June 2006.
- Better short-term improvements than permanent wrong solution for Stonehenge, National Trust press release, Wednesday 14 June 2006.
- Stonehenge under imminent threat from misguided road improvements, 24dash.com, Wednesday 14 June 2006.
Kate Fielden has written her regular roundup of the campaign for Rescue News.
According to an article by Norman Hammond in The Times, 8 May: "The Society of Antiquaries of London, the world's oldest learned society devoted to the human past, has written to the Government endorsing a short-bored tunnel as the best available answer to the Stonehenge roads problem." In its letter, the Society writes that it: "appeals to the Government to end the current inertia surrounding the future of Stonehenge and its immediate environment so that the dignity and quality of visitor experience at this country's greatest prehistoric monument can be restored within a reasonable timescale".
- Burying the ancient impasse, Norman Hammond, The Times, 8 May 2006.
In the latest response to the public consultation, Salisbury's community transport campaign, Salisbury Transport 2000, concludes that the options being put forward do not meet the Government's transport and environmental goals, that there should be immediate action to close the A344 junction at Stonehenge and that there should be consideration of demand management steps to reduce traffic in the vicinity of Stonehenge and along this SW transport corridor.
An expensive plan for a new Stonehenge visitor centre was thrown out last year, but now it's been resubmitted by English Heritage. According to our friends at the Countess Road Residents Group, who oppose the plan: "Incredibly it is EXACTLY the same in every detail as the one that was rejected last year! Logically, this means that we shall have to repeat the expensive process that was carried out last year. Equally logically, the result should be the same as well!" In other words, the plan should be rejected once more.
- Visitor centre plans 'exactly the same', This is Wiltshire, 13 April.
- Hot news: the latest from the Countess Road Residents Group.
Fantastic news: some of Britain's leading conservation groups have issed a joint statement rejecting the British's government's plan for Stonehenge. The statement underlines their commitment to a vision that places the importance of the World Heritage Site above the importance of the road.
These organisations together represent a large body of the heritage and environmental movement, and reflect local, national and international views, with a diverse range of professional and public opinions.
They outline a long-term vision: "To regain the tranquillity and dignity of this unique cultural landscape, allowing present and future generations fully to enjoy and appreciate the World Heritage site as a whole."
All the groups oppose the current options in the Highways Agency Scheme Review as lacking a long-term vision that respects the international significance of Stonehenge as a World Heritage site and call on the Highways Agency to explore different options, which would be acceptable in terms of impact on the World Heritage landscape. These options should include above ground, or mainly above ground, routes, within northern and southern corridors, together with tunnel options that avoid impacting on the World Heritage site.
The groups involved are ASLaN - Ancient Sacred Landscape Network; CBA - The Council for British Archaeology; CPRE - The Campaign to Protect Rural England; FoE - Friends of the Earth; ICOMOS-UK - International Council for Monuments & Sites, UK; Prehistoric Society; RESCUE - The British Archaeological Trust; The National Trust; Transport 2000; and WANHS -Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society.
- Joint response of conservation organizations. The full text of the statement.
As cost estimates escalate and government plans for Stonehenge collapse in bureaucracy and farce, our friends at the British heritage campaign group Heritage Action have come up with a sensible new proposal: let's do what we can to improve the Stonehenge site now and worry about better improvements later:
"Many people feel a start could be made on improving things straight away and need not be left until resolution of the longer-term discussions, particularly about the A303 trunk road. Please support the following proposal, which has already gained support from a lot of other organisations. If enough people join our call then it will be heeded."In other words, let's make Stonehenge the priority, not the road. This plan is called Achievable Stonehenge and Save Stonehenge supports it 100%. There's a petition you can sign to show your support too. Well done to Heritage Action!
The A36 Corridor Alliance (transport and environmental groups based around England's West Country) have become the latest to slam government proposals for Stonehenge in their response to the public consultation. According to the Alliance's Chris Gillham:
"The truth is that Stonehenge has revealed the essential rotten heart of Government transport policy. You cannot have the Environment 'at the heart of Government policy', as is claimed and continue with a transport policy which is profligate of resources, ruinous of the environment and quality of life and essentially unsustainable. It is time for the Government to acknowledge that it is not possible, with honour or integrity, to build roads through a World Heritage Site."
Today, the government announces five "new" options for Stonehenge. Make that four old options that have previously been rejected, plus a minor tweaking of the existing road that would increase traffic pressure for a new road through the World Heritage Site at some point in the future. So no progress at all.
Environmental, archaeological, and transport groups have unanimously rejected the new proposals.
The National Trust rejected all five options.
"With its publication of the consultation document for the A303 Road Proposals Options Review for Stonehenge, the Government has failed one of the world's most famous landscapes. The five options outlined in the Review and the consultative process by which the Government arrived at this decision, focus on transport solutions for Stonehenge which denigrate its status as a World Heritage Site. These schemes will not return the world famous stones to the tranquillity they deserve and threaten to damage valuable archaeology.
Any hopes we may have had - following the Government’s announcements of 20 July and 31 October - that the Review would identify the shortlist of options to guarantee Stonehenge's future, have been disappointed. We believe that none of the five options put forward by Government are acceptable. Furthermore, we do not believe that the shortlist of options for further detailed consideration represent the full range of alternatives.
The Government has failed both to undertake a detailed review of the options and to consult environmental and heritage organisations at a stage of the process which would afford a real opportunity to input into this Review.
There are alternative options for Stonehenge which may be both preferable and less expensive than those outlined by the Government which should have been included in the review to date. We call on the Government to make creative use of the 13 week consultation period, which follows their announcement, to give serious consideration to all options and move forward on alternative options that would offer Stonehenge the world class future its status requires."
Two of the "new" options on offer (surface roads rejected in the early 1990s) have brought swift condemnation from the RSPB, because they would destroy nesting and roosting sites of the stone curlew, which only has two UK strongholds. RSPB said the plans would also harm prospects for more than 25 other bird species and 14 butterfly species.
Kate Fielden of the Stonehenge Alliance was also critical: "The announcement of options for the A303 Improvement at Stonehenge is disappointing. The reviewers have come up with five options, four of which take us back more than a decade and indicate that the Government's priority at Stonehenge continues to be a road improvement that would leave the archaeological landscape of the World Heritage Site severely damaged for ever."
Save Stonehenge argues that after almost 20 years of debate on the issue, there simply is no perfect road solution - or even a good one. The five options now on offer cost between £159 million and £510 million: they are neither affordable nor cost-effective. They also potentially divert a huge amount of money away from higher priority transport schemes in the South West.
Transport 2000 said the Stonehenge consultation amounted to "fantasy road building", given that there was no funding available for road schemes there. The group said that low impact, quick to implement options should be sought. Director Stephen Joseph said: " All the options presented appear to involve significant damage to the Stonehenge World Heritage Site or to neighbouring heritage and wildlife sites. But this is fantasy road building anyway because there is no money to do any significant projects of this sort." T2000 campaigners said the South West Regional Assembly was about to present its proposed funding priorities for transport in the South-west but none of the drafts contained any priority for roads at Stonehenge or elsewhere on the A303.
Stephen Joseph added: "Instead of drawing lines on maps, the Government should look at low cost, low impact, quick to implement measures to improve congestion and safety at the site." He said closing the A344 local road to the north of the stones would remove congestion and safety problems and allow instant improvements to the environment and setting of Stonehenge itself.
Friends of the Earth also reacted angrily. Its South West Regional Campaigner, Mike Birkin, said: "The choices on the table are not new and they are still not acceptable. The choice seems to be between damaging this valuable World Heritage Site now or damaging it later."
Mike continued: "The Government seems intent on turning the clock back, dredging up old road schemes and pushing on regardless. Is this really the same Government as professes concern for the climate? Yet at Stonehenge it continues to promote more tarmac, encouraging yet more people to get into their cars."
Three distinguished archaeological interest groups have also rejected the new options. In a joint statement, ICOMOS-UK, the Council for British Archaeology, and the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society Said: "Our three organisations welcomed the announcement made by the Roads Minister in July 2005, of a detailed review of possible options for the A303 road at Stonehenge, as a constructive way forward. However, in the event the process so far has been flawed by failure to engage the essential stakeholders or to look at the full range of appropriate alternative options. ICOMOS-UK, the CBA and the WANHS consider that the review options now being offered amount to a token consultation lacking a long-term vision that respects the international significance of Stonehenge as a World Heritage Site. We urge the Review Group to consider other preferable options that would better reflect the status and value of the overall Stonehenge landscape."
Save Stonehenge agrees that it's time to be more realistic about solving transport problems at Stonehenge. It's time to scrap road-based solutions entirely and explore other options instead, such as a light-rail link between Salisbury and Amesbury and a visitor's centre relocated away from local communities to take advantage of it. We would also like to see the A344 (the road that passes near the Stonehenge stone circle) closed immediately.
- 12 Environmental groups unanimously reject government plans for new roads at Stonehenge, Save Stonehenge news release, 24 January 2006.
- Statement: Stonehenge options review, National Trust, 24 January 2006.
- Stonehenge road a risk to birds BBC News, 23 Jan 2006.
- Stonehenge: time for non-road solutions at Britain's greatest heritage site, Save Stonehenge press release, 23 January 2006.
- Stonehenge: Highways Agency website: includes details of the new options, 23 January 2006. Also read the Highways Agency press release.
- Stonehenge road a risk to birds BBC News, 23 Jan 2006.
- Stonehenge re-think threatens recovery of rarest bird RSPB press release, 23 Jan 2006.
- Stonehenge: Government's options are all dead ends CPRE press release, 23 Jan 2006.
- Stonehenge Alliance interim position statement, 23 January 2006.
- New A303 widening plans will damage Stonehenge site, Friends of the Earth press release, 23 January 2006.
- By rail to Stonehenge by Colin Hall, Salisbury Friends of the Earth.
Although the Stonehenge tunnel is now almost dead and buried (!), Salisbury's MP, Robert Key, continues to campaign for road improvements at Stonehenge. Quoted in the Salisbury Journal of 10th November, Mr Key suggested the British government will now explore a choice of four options for a road improvement at Stonehenge:
- A new northern route
- A new southern route
- An on-line dual carriageway without a tunnel
- No improvement in the World Heritage Site, but a bypass of Winterbourne Stoke (on the western side of the WHS) and construction of a flyover (on the eastern side) to allow the proposed new Stonehenge visitor centre to proceed.
- Key presses for action on A303: Salisbury Journal, November 10, 2005.
British transport minister Dr Stephen Ladyman has now announced a full review of the Stonehenge project. The current scheme and alternative options are to be reconsidered in a 13-week review beginning in January 2006. Dr Ladyman said: "I hope this review will enable me to decide on an option in keeping with the special requirements of the location that is affordable, realistic and deliverable."
- WAY FORWARD ANNOUNCED FOR A303 STONEHENGE REVIEW: Department for Transport Press Release, October 31, 2005.
In a new article for Rescue News (Autumn 2005), Kate Fielden sums up the current state of the Stonehenge highway scheme and visitor centre. As Kate says: "The long conflict of understanding and purpose at Stonehenge between conservationists and the Government, if allowed to continue unchecked, appears set to become an international scandal. The opportunity to review the options for the A303 is therefore all the more welcome, especially as refusal of the planning application for the new Stonehenge visitor-centre (see Rescue News 94) now makes it possible to reconsider the future of the Stonehenge Project as a whole."
- Stonehenge update: Rescue News, Autumn 2005.
Salisbury District Council has refused planning permission for the £67 million visitor centre. These are the reasons councillors gave:
"That the above application be refused for the following reasons:
1. The proposal as submitted relies upon the provision of a passenger transit system known as the 'land train', within the World Heritage Site.
The applicants have failed to demonstrate that the transit system, in terms of its length, width, height, frequency, route and specification does not have an adverse impact upon:
- the archaeology of the World Heritage Site (including the Cursus),
- the visual setting of the World Heritage Site and
- the amenities of local residents.
The proposal is therefore considered to be contrary to policies, DP1, HE1, HE2 of the Wiltshire County Structure Plan 2001 and G1, G2, CN20, CN22, CN24, C1, C2 of the adopted Salisbury District Local Plan 2003.
2. The proposal as submitted to develop the new visitor centre for the World Heritage Site of Stonehenge, relies fundamentally upon the provision of a flyover at Countess Roundabout, as part of the A303 Trunk Road (Stonehenge Improvement) Orders.
The requirement to provide a safe access to the site and maintain the free flow of traffic upon the A303 at Countess Roundabout, is critical to the authorisation of this proposal. It is not considered that the applicant has demonstrated that this can be delivered within a reasonable time scale, which could have enabled the conditioning of the flyover to the proposed development, in accordance with government advice contained within Department of the Environment Circular 11/95.
The recent decision of Government that a detailed review of the options to ease congestion on the A303 is to be carried out, has exacerbated the level of uncertainty regarding the flyover. Therefore in the absence of any clear and reasonable expectation of the flyover taking place, it is considered that the proposal for the Visitor Centre should not be approved.
The proposal as submitted is therefore considered contrary to policy DP2 of the Wiltshire County Structure Plan 2001 and policies G2 and TR12 of the adopted Salisbury District Local Plan, 2003 and the Countess East Planning Brief adopted as Supplementary Planning Guidance in December 1999."
- Stonehenge centre plans refused: BBC News, 26 July 2005.
- Stonehenge visitor centre is refused: Salisbury District Council press release, 26 July 2005.
The government has just announced a major rethink on Stonehenge after
new estimates pushed the cost to over £470 million. According to
transport minister Dr Stephen Ladyman: "The review is necessary
because there has been a very substantial increase in the estimated
costs of the proposed Stonehenge tunnel since the scheme went to Public
It now seems almost certain the scheme will be scrapped in favour of
other options, which we hope will be good news for Stonehenge.
But there is a risk the government could opt to do something cheaper,
which could be very bad news if it involved a more destructive plan.
- A303 review announced: DfT press release, 20 July 2005.
- Campaigners welcome government rethink on Stonehenge tunnel Save Stonehenge! press release, 20 July 2005.
- Stonehenge alliance press release 20 July 2005.
- Government to review Stonehenge road tunnel, Friends of the Earth press release, 20 July 2005.
- Stonehenge: Government to review its only 'exceptional environmental road scheme': CPRE Press Release, 20 July 2005.
- National Trust calls for 'creative solutions' for Stonehenge: National Trust press release, 20 July 2005.
- Press Statement: A303 Stonehenge Improvement Scheme: English Heritage, 20 July 2005.
- ICOMOS-UK Press statement on announcement of review, 22 July 2005.
The 438-page Inspector's report of the public inquiry has also finally been published and largely accepts the case for the road, brushing aside virtually all objections raised by opponents. This comes as no surprise at all. As Save Stonehenge! argued in a press release immediately before the public inquiry in February 2004: "This will be a fair inquiry but it won't be a fair outcome. People should have no illusions about democracy: this inquiry is designed to rubber-stamp a decision made years ago. The public inquiry system being used at Stonehenge is exactly the same one that gave us such massively destructive roads as Twyford Down and the Newbury bypass. The British road-planning system is undemocractic and fundamentally flawed. It is a government stitch up from start to finish. No-one should be in any doubt: this inquiry will find for the road. If by some miracle it does not, the Government will overrule its outcome and see that it does."
- Inspector's report of the public inquiry (follow this link to find the report in PDF format).
The government has just revealed that the estimated cost of the tunnel is now £223 million – up £30 million from the last estimate in 2003. Back in 1998, government advisors argued that the road, then estimated to cost £125 million, was of only "marginal economic benefit". Now almost £100 million more expensive, the entire project is clearly an enormously expensive white elephant – it's neither a good solution nor a cost-effective one – and should be abandoned immediately.
Kate Fielden of the Stonehenge Alliance has very kindly put together this update on the campaign as it now stands. Thank you, Kate!
"The Stonehenge roads and visitor-centre saga is old news but how many of those who will gather at Stonehenge this week have any idea of exactly what is planned for the surroundings of this monument?
The A303 Inquiry was held last spring. Environmental organisations and archaeologists raised strong objections to the Highways Agency's proposals to dual the A303 with a 2.1km short bored tunnel to bury the road close to Stonehenge. They dismissed English Heritage's claim that this was the best that could be afforded, showing that a blinkered approach towards protection of the World Heritage Site would permit only the central area to be improved. The road scheme would leave dual carriageways across two thirds of the World Heritage Site with long tunnel cuttings deep into the archaeological landscape.
The National Trust, objecting to the road scheme, suggested a slightly longer bored tunnel – but conservationists argued that this, too, would be hugely damaging and unacceptable in a World Heritage Site designated for the quality and extent of its archaeological remains. Archaeologists pointed out that ancient sites, deliberately located according to the topography, would have had meaning for those who passed through the landscape, seeing them as significant elements of the journey towards Stonehenge. The road proposals would make it impossible to attempt to re-create that experience for present-day visitors.
The A303 Inquiry Inspector's report has been with the Secretary of State for Transport for some months but the only statement from the Department on the A303 so far has been to redesignate the scheme as a regional one – possibly for financial reasons.
In the absence of a decision to proceed on the A303 scheme, English Heritage has pressed ahead with a planning application for a new Stonehenge visitor-centre close to Amesbury. Objectors are wondering if the exercise may be a waste of time and expense, since the visitor-centre is not viable without the A303 improvements. Access to Stonehenge via visitor-transit buses from the new centre would require some 3.5km of roads newly constructed for the purpose. The new roads and huge, glass-sided bus shelters would be sited within the open countryside of the World Heritage Site, impacting on the settings of key monuments and disrupting views of walkers in the wider landscape.
Before the Government imposed financial restraints on the Stonehenge project, English Heritage and the National Trust were adamant – as other conservationists still are – that only the best would do for Stonehenge. If the destructive but "affordable" short tunnel scheme is given the go-ahead, new roads will be driven across the landscape to take visitors to the Stones. Something is obviously seriously wrong with current thinking on Stonehenge and if a halt isn't called soon, damage may be done to the surroundings of the World's most famous monument that can never be put right. New proposals for road travel charging might be one of a number of ways to rethink the potential for a very much better way to rectify, rather than compound this 'national disgrace'."
The report summarizing the outcome of the public inqsuiry (seen below) has still not been published. Denise Carlo of Transport 2000 applied for the report to be released under the Freedom of Information Regulations but was denied access on the grounds that the report is currently still confidential advice to ministers.
We understand that a 400-page report summarizing the outcome of the public inquiry has now been submitted to the Secretary of State for Transport by the inquiry inspectors. The report has not yet been officially released and is unlikely to be released for a while, but we will keep you updated with news.
People have been writing to ask us the latest news on the Stonehenge scheme. Things are rather confused:
The inspector who presided over the public inquiry in spring 2004 was supposed to have submitted a report on the proceedings to the British government's Department for Transport (DfT) in September 2004. As of mid-December 2004, that still has not happened.
We have also heard (unofficially) that the British government currently has no money to spend on the Stonehenge scheme. No work can begin on the scheme until the government receives the report, makes an official decision to go ahead with the road, and then finds the money to do so.
Meanwhile, the government has also reclassified the plan (supposedly an "exceptional environmental improvement") as a regional road scheme -- effectively making it no more important than any other local road.
And the government has also scrapped plans for a new widened section of the A303 through the Blackdown Hills, scuppering the plan to widen the A303 along its entire length -- at least for the time being.
All this has thrown the Stonehenge plan into some confusion! The case for pressing ahead with "the Stonehenge project" is now weaker than it has ever been. But one thing is clear: this highly destructive scheme is far from dead and we must keep up the pressure for a better solution. We will continue to post the latest news here as soon as we have it.
The Stonehenge Alliance (a coalition of leading British environment, transport, archaeology, and Pagan groups) has formally objected to the proposed new visitor centre. Members of the Alliance, including Salisbury Transport 2000, have submitted detailed objections of their own. ICOMOS-UK (a group of archaeologists who advise UNESCO on world heritage sites in the UK) has also submitted a detailed letter of concern.
- Objection to visitor centre planning application, 8 November 2004.
- Salisbury Transport 2000: Objection to visitor centre, 8 November 2004.
- ICOMOS-UK concerns about visitor centre, November 2004.
A new survey by Save Stonehenge! suggests there is overwhelming international opposition to the British government's plans to construct a new section of dual-carriageway (four-lane highway), only partly in a tunnel, through the world famous heritage Site. Our website includes a popular message board where readers can post their own views about the scheme. Between March 2001 and October 2004, readers from 18 countries have left over 300 written comments about the proposed highway upgrade. Only 12 of those comments have supported the government's plan; the remaining 298 oppose it. Around 60% of the comments came from outside the UK.
- New survey shows citizens of the world slam proposed Stonehenge road scheme, Save Stonehenge Press Release, 22 October 2004.
English Heritage has now submitted its planning application for a new visitor centre, as part of the huge Stonehenge Project that includes the highway upgrade. We recommend that you oppose the visitor centre plan; there are instructions and sample objections on our take action page.
- RESCUE news 94: a news item about the visitor centre plan, by Kate Fielden, scheduled for publication in Rescue News, October 2004.
- Countess Road Residents Group: local people and councillors have expressed overwhelming opposition to the new visitor centre plans.
- Visitors Centre "will never happen": how the Countess Road Residents Group is fighting plans for a huge influx of visitors to Amesbury... and just who is "Lord Stevens of Stonehenge"??
- Stonehenge centre plans unveiled: BBC News, 15 September 2004.
- Stonehenge planning application: full documentation online from Salisbury District Council.
According to a press release by Friends of the Earth:
"Greenhouse gas emissions from transport have risen by 47 per cent since 1990, new figures released by the Office of National Statistics reveal, showing the failure of successive governments to tackle the problems caused by road transport."
The British government is not just failing to tackle traffic growth, it is actively fueling the growth in traffic by proposing massively expanded roads like the Stonehenge scheme. Its no exaggeration to say that the Stonehenge road is not just bad for Britain: it's bad for the whole world. Greenhouse emissions from transport on expanded roads help to exacerbate climate change right across the planet.
- Transport Emissions Rise Friends of the Earth press release, July 22, 2004.
The 12-week-long public inquiry into the Stonehenge road scheme has now ended. The inspector (the sort of "judge" who ran the Inquiry) will now go away and write a report with his recommendations. He is expected to deliver this to the British government by September 2004. After that, British government minister Alistair Darling will make a decision about whether to proceed with the road scheme or not. In our view, he will almost certainly decide to bulldoze ahead... and our campaign to stop the road will continue!
- Summary of the public inquiry by Kate Fielden of the Stonehenge Alliance.
- The Stonehenge Alliance's closing statement to the inquiry.
17 February 2004: Public inquiry opens
An estimated 200 people attended the first day of the Stonehenge public inquiry in Salisbury, which is expected to run for the next few months. Read more:
10 February 2004: Save Stonehenge asks: will public inquiry be "fair or foul"?
A week before the public inquiry into the Stonehenge road is due to start, Save Stonehenge has questioned whether the inquiry can deliver a fair outcome. Public inquiries into road schemes almost invariably find in favour of the roads, however hard objectors fight and however well they articulate their case. The reason? The same flawed and undemocractic road-planning system has been used in Britain for more than a quarter of a century: it's designed to build roads, not to deliver democracy.
Is it hypocritical of us to campaign for an inquiry, to take part in the inquiry, and then to criticize it at the same time? Not at all. It would be hypocritical if we didn't express our serious reservations until after the inquiry had reported.
5 February 2004: Public inquiry details announced
The inquiry will open on Tuesday 17 February 2004 at the Guildhall, Market Place, Salisbury, Wiltshire SP1 1JH, and will continue, from 18 February, at the main inquiry venue – Cross Keys House, Salisbury.See our inquiry page for more details.
17 November 2003: Objectors gear up for public inquiry
Various groups who oppose the Stonehenge project appeared at a meeting in Salisbury on 17 November to set out their "statements of case". According to Friends of the Earth's Mike Birkin, this may be the last chance to save the Stonehenge landscape.
4 September 2003: Public inquiry announced
Arrangements are now being made for the Stonehenge Public Inquiry to open on 17 Feb 2004, details to be published in due course. There will be a Pre-Inquiry meeting on 17 November 2003 - again details to be published in due course.
10 August 2003: Leading environmental groups attack the plan
The Stonehenge Alliance, a coalition of leading British environmental groups (including Friends of the Earth, CPRE, Transport 2000, the Pagan Federation, and ASLAN) has now formally objected to the road plans. The National Trust and ICOMOS-UK are among other notable objectors.
5 June 2003: Highways Agency publishes detailed design of Stonehenge scheme
The Highways Agency has now published the so-called Draft Orders for the Stonehenge road -- the legal documents that amount to a planning application for the new road. The plans are to be shown off at a public exhibition in Amesbury, the closest town to Stonehenge, from 12-14 June. The National Trust, the Stonehenge Alliance, Save Stonehenge and others have criticized the plans, which ignore calls for less destructive alternatives to be explored.
- A303 Stonehenge Improvement: Have your say on detailed plans - press release by the Highways Agency, 29 May 2003 (reissued 5th June 2003).
- Non-Technical Summary of the Environmental Statement - an official outline of what the scheme is all about.
- Draft Stonehenge plans published - BBC News, 5th June 2003.
- Stonehenge road plans published - Ananova.com, 5th June 2003.
- National Trust calls for full delivery of Stonehenge vision - National Trust press release, 5th June 2003.
- New Stonehenge road would bring "massive destruction" to World Heritage Site, Stonehenge Alliance Press Release, 10 June 2003.
- Stonehenge Aliance Position Statement - 5 June 2003.
- New Stonehenge plan is Trojan horse - Save Stonehenge news release, 5th June 2003.
29 May 2003: Highways Agency prepares to announce detailed design of Stonehenge scheme
In a press release dated 29th May, the Highways Agency (the British government's roadbuilding offshoot) announced it would publish the detailed design of the Stonehenge tunnel and road scheme on 5th June. We will post more information when we get it.
10 December 2002: British government drops cut-and-cover in favour of bored tunnelBritain's transport secretary Alistair Darling has announced extra money will be spent to construct a 2.1 km bored tunnel at Stonehenge. The good news is that the cut-and-cover proposal is no more! The bad news is that the new proposal is still for a highly destructive short bored tunnel, which ICOMOS-UK, the National Trust, the Stonehenge Alliance and Save Stonehenge have all opposed. This confirms that the British government's interest is to increase the capacity of the A303 -- to speed more traffic past Stonehenge -- and not to safeguard the World Heritage Site.
- Tunnel to protect Stonehenge but critics say it will not be enough by Maev Kennedy, The Guardian, Wednesday December 11, 2002.
- Stonehenge road tunnel scheme condemned by Charles Clover, The Telegraph, December 12, 2002.
- Department for Transport press release, 10 December 2002.
- National Trust reaction to the announcement
- English Heritage reaction to the announcement
- Department for Culture Media and Sport press release, 10 December 2002.
- ICOMOS-UK press release, 12 December 2002.
4 October 2002: National Trust rejects cut-and-coverThe National Trust has dramatically changed its position on Stonehenge -- several times. In the 1920s, it launched an appeal to save Stonehenge and its surroundings, arguing:
"...we have not two Stonehenges, and our generation will be vilified by all posterity if we allow the surroundings of this monument, the frontispiece to English history, to be ruined beyond repair."
In the late-1990s, in a moment of madness or weakness, the National Trust allowed itself to be dragged into supporting the highly controversial Stonehenge Master Plan as an "equal partner". It's been coming under fire ever since for supporting a scheme that would see bulldozers plough four lanes of new highway through one of the world's most important heritage sites.
On October 4th, the Trust changed position again. Now it has totally rejected the destructive cut-and-cover tunnelling method and is calling for a longer, bored tunnel instead.
"The National Trust opposes the Government´s preferred cut and cover tunnel at Stonehenge due to the irreversible damage to archaeological sites, some of which are scheduled ancient monuments, and the permanent changes to the landscape in sight of the Stones that would result."
In our view, the National Trust was rash to lend such public support to the Stonehenge Master Plan before its environmental impacts were properly known. We praise the Trust's Council for seeing sense and adopting a much more cautious approach. We urge the National Trust to do the best thing for Stonehenge, even if that means doing nothing at all.
- NATIONAL TRUST CALLS FOR A LONGER BORED TUNNEL FOR STONEHENGE
- MAXIMISING BENEFITS – A MORE SUSTAINABLE TUNNEL SOLUTION AT STONEHENGE
"The government is considering proposals for the tunnel on the A303 to re-create the unique landscape around Stonehenge and improve safety for road users. We expect decisions to be made by ministers on the preferred option to be reported to our partners, including the National Trust, later this year."
ICOMOS-UK (a group of archaeologists who advise UNESCO on world heritage sites in the UK) also released a new position statement in September 2002 and put out a press release in October 2002 stating: "ICOMOS-UK believes that the cut and cover method cannot be justified as it would have a disastrous and irreversible effect on the archaeology of the Stonehenge landscape."
This leaves all the major organizations united against cut-and-cover tunnelling at Stonehenge and confirms that the British government would be extremely ill-advised to choose that method of road construction.
1 August 2002: £57 million visitor centre for Stonehenge?English Heritage has announced plans for a new Stonehenge visitor centre costing £57 million. Designed by Australian architects Denton Corker Marshall, the new structure would be situated off the A303 Countess Roundabout just outside the World Heritage Site. The plans are only provisional however, with most of the money uncommitted until plans for the A303 road have been agreed.... or not, as the case may be.
English Heritage publicized the plans with claims that there would be "greater access to the ancient landscape" (somehow forgetting to point out that the stones would remain sealed off) and "less noise and traffic close to the Stone Circle" (somehow forgetting to point out that overall noise and traffic will increase, as the Highways Agency has already confirmed).
Read more in Maev Kennedy's article from The Guardian newspaper.
6 April 2002: Highways Agency hints at bored tunnelIn an article in The Times newspaper, the Highways Agency, which manages England’s trunk roads, has admitted that its previous proposal to excavate and then cover a 1.2-mile ditch only 200 yards from the Stonehenge monument could damage burial mounds and medieval field boundaries in the area. The Agency is now reported to be considering a bored tunnel, rather than a cut-and-fill one (a gouged ditch with a roof added on top), but is refusing to consider making this a longer tunnel on cost grounds.
27 March 2002: Highways Agency signs Stonehenge contractIn a highly controversial move, the Highways Agency (the government body that manages major roads in the UK) has signed a contract with construction companies Costain and Balfour Beatty to construct a road that will destroy part of the Stonehenge World Heritage Site. The Highways Agency continues to perpetuate the myth that it will "restore the Stonehenge landscape" to its "prehistoric setting". In fact, its plans will involve the destruction of a significant part of the original landscape and the creation of entirely new land forms out of waste material left over from the construction process.
The contract -- an in-principle decision to build the road -- has been signed before a public inquiry into the scheme and before an environmental impact assessment has been produced. Campaigners against the road point out that signing a contract will make it all the harder to stop the road if a public inquiry finds the environmental impact is too great. But the Highways Agency argues "the development of the scheme [will] benefit both from the contractor's experience and close dialogue with the scheme partners, encouraging more innovative solutions and improved consideration of environmental and archaeological issues. It also encourages a shorter construction period, helping to speed up delivery, and reduce disruption to local activity during construction."
Read the Highways Agency press release.
18 October 2001: Alliance warns "Don't blight Stonehenge"A powerful alliance of environmental, transport, and archaeological groups is calling for a rethink on plans for a cut-and-cover tunnel at Stonehenge. Clare Slaney of Save our Sacred Sites, one of the groups in the Alliance, commented: "We must not let this ancient landscape be forever blighted by short-term traffic improvements." Read the Stonehenge Alliance press release.
August 2001: ICOMOS world heritage body expresses concerns over Stonehenge schemeIn a memorandum dated July 2001, the International Council on Monuments and Sites-UK has expressed a number of concerns about the way the Stonehenge Master Plan is proceeding, which echo the concerns raised by Save Stonehenge over the last three years. Read the ICOMOS concerns and see how they relate to the organization's original February 2000 position statement.
August 2001: National Trust asked to consider Stonehenge stanceMembers of the National Trust (for the sake of overseas readers: an English conservation body that owns and manages much of the land around Stonehenge) have submitted a motion to the organization's Annual General Meeting asking it to consider very carefully the implications of its policy on the proposed Stonehenge road scheme. The meeting will be held later this year.
February 2001: Highways Agency admit traffic will increase at StonehengeControversial road engineers Mott Macdonald are continuing to design the cut-and-cover road scheme for Stonehenge and the UK government, English Heritage, and the National Trust continue to work on the presumption that they can force through what may be the most environmentally destructive road ever built in Britain.
The Highways Agency are currently setting out the scope of the Environmental Statement, a legal requirement (under UK and European law) for any major new road scheme that describes a broad range of effects the road will have on the natural and historic environment. But the outline brief for the Environmental Statement seems lacking on a range of environmental and heritage issues, including the statement by the International Council on Monuments & Sites UK (ICOMOS UK) that all alternatives must be fully considered. The accent is on improvement to the setting of the henge and not the impact on the World Heritage Site as a whole (as required by the Stonehenge Management Plan). The Highways Agency also admit that traffic flow would increase on a dualled A303 at Stonehenge.
Autumn 2000: 95% of archaeologists reject Stonehenge scheme in Great Stonehenge PollAn international poll conducted on this website and publicized through archaeology newsgroups revealed 95% opposition to the current plan.
10 July 2000: English Heritage to secure Stonehenge visitor centre siteIn a well-spun press release, English Heritage announced it would secure land at Countess for a new Stonehenge visitor centre. It claimed no commercial organization "has produced a scheme which satisfies all of English Heritage’s criteria for a world-class heritage visitor centre. We are therefore closing down the current visitor centre procurement process." In truth, the commercial operators approached consider the project too risky and have refused to take it on.
10 July 2000: Highways Agency claims new flyover best solution for traffic problems at Countess Roundabout near StonehengeIn a move that surprised no-one, the Highways Agency announced its intention to construct a gigantic flyover to cater for the massively increased traffic that would result from its proposed road expansion near Stonehenge. Road Minister Lord Whitty said: "I believe this will meet the needs of local residents in Amesbury and motorists using this important route to and from the West Country, and assist the proposals by English Heritage for their new visitor centre outside the World Heritage Site at Stonehenge." What local residents in Amesbury thought about the prospect of massively increased traffic their homes wasn't reported. Read the press release here.
June 2000: Stonehenge Management Plan throws road project into doubtMonday 6 June, 2000: Chris Smith, The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport today announced the publication of the Stonehenge World Heritage Site Management Plan. Read the press release or download the plan from English Heritage's website. For a better analysis, try this article from the Guardian: Rethink probable on plans for Stonehenge by Maev Kennedy, 9 June 2000.
March 2000: Contract to design Stonehenge scheme let to Mott MacdonaldThe Highways Agency has confirmed that Mott Macdonald, the company who designed and supervised construction of the notoriously destructive Twyford Down and Newbury bypass schemes, have won the contract to design the scheme for Stonehenge. Both Twyford and Newbury were archaeologically destructive. The Twyford road destroyed an ancient monument; the Newbury bypass damaged/destroyed 14 archaeological sites and damaged the landscape setting of Donington Castle, another scheduled ancient monument. Both schemes were highly environmentally controversial. Both prompted large-scale campaigns and direct-action protests. Both roads now have very poor safety records. A sign of things to come at Stonehenge?
Feb 2000: ICOMOS UK issues position statement on Stonehenge planThe International Council on Monuments & Sites UK (ICOMOS UK) issued a position statement rejecting calls to place Stonehenge on "Heritage in Danger" list but supporting full evaluation of alternatives.
Jan 2000: Major debate in The TimesThe directors of six leading NGOs wrote a joint letter to The Times, Stonehenge plan 'puts site at risk', on 8th January 2000, prompting a reply from English Heritage and the National Trust, which prompted its own reply from Kate Fielden.
Oct 1999: English Heritage spends £108,000 on Stonehenge public relationsA parliamentary question asked by Robert Key, MP, on 19th October 1999 revealed that English Heritage has spent £108,000 on public relations and design for the Stonehenge master plan and visitor centre.
Sept 1999: Management Plan issued at lastThe Stonehenge Management Plan was issued for public consultation at the start of September.
For a broader, more analytical, and more detailed history, take a look at these sources:
- "Stonehenge - the saga continues" An article by Elizabeth Young and Wayland Kennet describing the convoluted history of conservation efforts at Stonehenge.
- Council for British Archaeology Stonehenge page: A good summary of the history surrounding plans to improve Stonehenge.
- Stonehenge Complete by Christopher Chippindale. Still the definitive book on Stonehenge.
- Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion by Andy Worthington. A fascinating look at the counter-cultural, social history of Stonehenge.