Like many others, I’m deeply dismayed that the Secretary of State has granted permission for the major road development on the A303 in Wiltshire, UK, including two road tunnels with deep cuttings etc. within the Stonehenge World Heritage Site, for negligible benefit, and at unknowable cost. Find out more about these plans on the Stonehenge Alliance website here.
And the costs are not only financial and archeological, but also involve a less tangible, but nonetheless important public good. For millennia, Stonehenge has been visible free to all from track & road. It’s a view that has also inspired artists & writers including Turner, Constable, John Cowper Powys, and many more. (And me! Anyone who’s read my latest novel The Fountain in the Forest will know that it is a detective thriller set in London, at Stonehenge, and on the French Riviera.)
Under the new scheme, Stonehenge will no longer be visible to passing travellers from the road.
Amidst the grosser damage these tunnels will cause to a unique World Heritage Site, that free and ancient view of the stones will now be denied to future generations.
When I was interviewed in 2015 by Russian car magazine Ключавто, I spoke about the government plans to build the tunnel.
If this happens it will all be done no doubt in the typical hypocritical style, using words like ‘safeguard’ and ‘preserve’ while happily smashing everything.Tony White interviewed in Ключавто
(It came up because editor Timur Ryzhkov had reminded me that that my first novel Road Rage! includes a wholly fictional plan to build roads over ancient sacred sites and stone circles across the UK!) But even then I didn’t fully understand the scale of the project and the damage it would cause within the World Heritage Site, and simply hoped that such an obviously disastrous plan would not go ahead.
The decision goes against the explicit advice of both the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, and the UK’s independent Examining Authority.
And it is even more surprising when you consider that the scheme was greenlit in 2017 by none other than the then Transport Secretary Chris Grayling – he of ‘Brexit ferry fiasco’ fame. On top of everything else, you’d think that this association with ‘Failing Grayling’ would be more than enough justification to drop such a destructive waste of money.