PLANS to upgrade the A303 at Stonehenge – including the creation of a tunnel taking traffic through the historic site – should be changed, cultural body Unesco has said.
A report into the proposed changes to the road – which were approved by the government earlier this year – says the status of Stonehenge and surrounding archaeology as a World Heritage Site could be under threat if the scheme is not amended, the BBC has reported.
“Over the years, the committee and the advisory bodies have been clear and consistent that the proposed A303 improvement scheme should not proceed in its current form,” the BBC reported the Unesco document as saying.
“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,” it added.
The World Heritage Committee is set to gather in February next year, with Unesco urging the government to act on changing the proposals before then, it is claimed.
Controversial plans for a billion-pound upgrade of the A303 around Stonehenge were approved in July, after a court ruling against them was overturned.
Transport Secretary Mark Harper (Con, Forest of Dean) gave the scheme the green light after a 12-month consultation.
National Highways welcomed the decision, saying it would ‘help to unlock congestion and transform journeys for millions of people using the A303 between the South East and South West’.
However, campaigners branded the decision ‘disgraceful’.
President of the Stonehenge Alliance group, Tom Holland, said: “Today, a supposedly Conservative government plans to blow upwards of £2 billion, at a time when the country’s finances are in a shocking state, on a monstrous white elephant of a road development that will permanently disfigure Britain’s most significant and sacred prehistoric landscape.
“The decision of Mark Harper to greenlight the building of a tunnel through a stretch of the World Heritage Site that surrounds Stonehenge is as inexplicable as it is disgraceful.
“Certainly, no one can be in any doubt that the scheme will inflict permanent, irreversible harm on a landscape that is the supreme icon of British archaeology.”