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Stonehenge Scheme in Question Volume 55 Number 2, March/April 2002
by Colleen P. Popson

Commonly called a national disgrace, the highways adjacent to Stonehenge are a source of noise and air pollution and have long obstructed the site's prehistoric landscape. After much wrangling over how best to amend the problem, English Heritage, the agency that oversees cultural heritage management; the National Trust, which owns Stonehenge; and the Highways Agency have created a "master plan" (www.stonehengemasterplan.org). It consists of two major projects: eliminating one road and relocating another below ground in a cut-and-cover tunnel just over a mile long, and creating a new visitors' center a couple of miles from the monument, outside the boundary of the 1,600-acre UNESCO World Heritage site.

While the master plan appears to be moving forward, criticism abounds. A collective called the Stonehenge Alliance (www.savestonehenge.org.uk) believes it is not in accord with the World Heritage site management plan, which requires the highest level of protection for the entire site, not just the area immediately adjacent to the stones. It maintains that the tunnel will not be long enough to protect the site's landscape, and that it puts much more of the archaeological landscape at risk than would a bored tunnel, dug below the level where cultural remains might be found. Proponents of the master plan claim only five of the site's 450 registered monuments will be affected by the cut-and-cover tunnel and that they are already "damaged."

So why not dig the longer, bored tunnel? The problem comes down to funding. Initial estimates put the bored tunnel at about £300 million (about $450 million), a cost twice that of the cut-and-cover version. Says Alliance member Kate Frieden, "We agree that major changes are needed, but if the country can't afford to make the best changes for the entire landscape, it should wait until it can, or look for funding in other places."

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© 2002 by the Archaeological Institute of America
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