British Government gives green light to controversial tunnel under Stonehenge

British Government gives green light to controversial tunnel under Stonehenge

Unesco, which declared the megalithic monument as a World Heritage Site in 1986, opposes the burial project for the A303 road, which runs alongside the archaeological site

British Government gives green light to controversial tunnel under Stonehenge

The British Government has given the green light to the controversial tunnel under Stonehenge and has unleashed a wave of criticism from environmentalists, historians and archaeologists. The Stonehenge Alliance group, led by historian Tom Holland, has launched a petition against the project, backed by 125,000 signatures, and has vowed to take the battle to the Supreme Court.

Unesco, which declared the megalithic monument as a World Heritage Site in 1986, also opposes the burial project for the A303 road, which currently runs less than 200 meters from the archaeological site. The project, estimated at around 2 billion euros, includes the construction of a three-kilometer tunnel and the widening of the underground highway to four lanes. The works are expected to begin in 2023 and will last for five years.

Kate Mayor, executive director of English Heritage – the authority that watches over the integrity of British monuments – has supported the project considering that it will mean “the end of the noisy and intrusive road” that prevents the monument from being appreciated at ground level . “Stonehenge will finally be able to reunite with the prehistoric landscape that surrounds it for the enjoyment of future generations,” says Mayor.

“The decision to make a large cut of asphalt and concrete in the most precious prehistoric landscape of the United Kingdom is at the same time a waste and a sacrilege”, the historian Tom Holland, who leads the battle , tells 'The Times' against the project for more than a decade. “We will continue to oppose it with all our might.”

Holland refers to the 560-page report from the Planning Inspection Office that concluded last January that the works would cause “permanent and irreversible damage” to the monument and its surroundings. Highways England, in charge of the project, has ensured, however, that the tunnel (50 meters further from where the road now runs) will be carried out in a “sensible and transformative” way to return the landscape on the surface to its original state .

Professor David Jacques, who heads the Blick Mead project in the vicinity of the monument, called the decision “an international scandal” and warned that the construction of the tunnel could have a serious impact on all archaeological excavations in the area. “We have been stunned by the approval of the Government, in light of everything that we are discovering and what we can lose if this project goes ahead,” warned Jacques.

The latest discovery in the area occurred precisely last summer, when archaeologists unearthed a ring of more than 20 prehistoric axes, built more than 4,500 years ago, just over three kilometers from the famous megaliths. Experts believe that the circle could have served as a symbolic “border” between the world of the living and the world of the dead, marking the entry into sacred territory.

In 2015, and in the same Neolithic settlement known as the Durrington Wall, the team led by archaeologist Vince Gaffney discovered a first stone circle as a natural amphitheater that replicated an “astronomical” order and was possibly used for more rituals. or less similar to those of Stonehenge. Gaffney even speaks of the 'Superhenge', with 17 Neolithic remains in a 12 square kilometer radius around the temple.

The druid Arthur Pendragon, who officiates in situ the ceremonies of the famous solstice, predicts that there will be massive protests to defend the monument that attracts more than a million and a half visitors from all over the world every year. “Boris Johnson said in his day that he was willing to step in front of the bulldozers to prevent them from building Heathrow's third runway,” Pendragon told The Guardian. “I will put myself in front of the 'bulldozers' to avoid this outrage.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *