Do Not Proceed With Stonehenge Tunnel In Current Form, UNESCO Tells U.K. Government

In July the U.K. government gave the go-ahead for a controversial tunnel close to the internationally famous Stonehenge standing stones. UNESCO has now told the government the scheme “should not proceed in its current form.”

The UN cultural body said in a report seen by the BBC that the “currently proposed western portal and associated dual carriageway within a cutting would have significant and inappropriate adverse impacts on the physical and visual integrity of the property.”

Transport secretary Mark Harper unveiled the latest decision to proceed with the tunnel near Britain’s most famous World Heritage Site (WHS) on July 14. Previous transport secretaries have made similar decisions only for them to be later overturned following worldwide protests.

Tom Holland, the president of the anti-tunnel lobby group Stonehenge Alliance, said in July: “At the best of times this would be a grotesque decision, but at a time when the country is faced with so many bills, such a financial shortfall, this desecration of a world heritage site is the height of folly–an act of vandalism that shames Britain.”

On September 5, members of the Stonehenge Alliance and Save Stonehenge World Heritage Site (SSWHS) travelled to Paris today to present UNESCO with a copy of a 225,000 signature petition, from 147 countries, calling on the U.K. Government not to build its road scheme through the Stonehenge World Heritage Site.

Stonehenge could be stripped of its WHS status if the scheme goes ahead unaltered.

Chris Todd, director of Transport Action Network (TAN), a member of the Stonehenge Alliance and a director of SSSWHS said:

“Stonehenge could lose its World Heritage Site status if this road scheme goes ahead unaltered. This would be an international embarrassment for the U.K. Only three World Heritage Sites have ever been delisted since the signing of the World Heritage Convention in 1972. The most recent was Liverpool in 2021, which also happened under this Government’s watch. To lose one WHS is bad enough, but to lose two would show a failure of leadership and responsibility for both humanity and future generations.”

Harper approved an application by Highways England for consent to build a 1.8-mile road tunnel to reroute a trunk road away from the standing stones on Salisbury Plain, near Amesbury, Wiltshire.

The U.K’s Planning Inspectorate has previously said the tunnel would case “permanent, irreversible harm” to Stonehenge’s ritual landscape.

In a 64-page decision letter, Harper agreed. He admitted “there will be harm as a result of the development to cultural heritage and the historic environment.”


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