Caution, Stonehenge. Roadwork ahead.
This continues the segment of blogs on Stonehenge. If you haven’t read the blogs explaining events leading to this moment, it would be helpful to have a look.
One would think a UNESCO World Heritage Site would be protected in normal circumstances. Abnormal circumstances include war or weather or events that we cannot control. But road construction? Through a site that provides and could potentially provide further historical information?
In July UNESCO cautioned the British government that Highways England’s proposals for a 2.9 km (1.8 mile) tunnel and 4-lane road within the Stonehenge landscape were inadequate and highly damaging. They said: “It is not considered satisfactory to suggest that the benefits from a 2.9 km tunnel to the centre of the property can offset the significant damage from lengths of four-lane approach roads in cutting elsewhere in the property.”
UNESCO recommended exploring further options which include a surface bypass to the south of the property or longer tunnel options to avoid cutting into the landscape.
In a recent interview, Highways England’s Chief Executive Jim O’Sullivan won’t reconsider. He says: “I don’t think so, I mean we have the support of the major stakeholders.”
What sort of stakeholders would deem it a good idea to damage a site so significant?
Although the British government can ignore UNESCO’s advice, doing so could lead to Stonehenge being placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger. This would not only bring international disgrace upon our country and those responsible for protecting English heritage, but also cause outrage amongst eminent archaeologists, historians, writers, architects, artists and a legion of thinking people throughout the world.
Nonetheless, Mr. O’Sullivan considers the scheme an improvement: “A lot of people feel that these (our plans) safeguard that monument and make it much better than it is at the moment.”
What is the right thing to do? What does the future show for Stonehenge and its landscape? If you’re paying attention, new discoveries continue to be found in and near the Stonehenge landscape. Is it wise to consider building a road and tunnel through this landscape, permanently destroying any hope of uncovering something that would shed new light on our common past?
As you read this, likely you’re not an archaeologist, but if you enjoy historical fiction movies and books, it’s safe to bet you enjoy a good story that’s based on real events or centered in real places. Take Outlander or Doctor Who as two unique examples. Heck, even the Transformers, which has no basis on reality, filmed a movie in part around Stonehenge. Wouldn’t it be a tragedy to lose such iconic sites? We get wrapped up in day-to-day life, but it’s important to stop sometimes and realize where we come from. Archaeology isn’t a glamorous job, but it’s an important one.
Preserving sites like Stonehenge is critical. And there is something you can do. Sign the petition that will hopefully influence the final decision on where or if to build this road and tunnel. If we do not protect our past, what sort of hope do we have for the future?
For more details, including where to sign the petition please see: http://stonehengealliance.org.uk/