Campaigners fighting over Stonehenge

Published: 11 September 2017

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It’s one of the most famous landmarks in the world, recognizable to almost anyone.

Yet in a dramatic twist, Stonehenge could have its famous World Heritage status taken away, if the British Government proceeds with its plans to dig a tunnel underneath it.

Campaigners on both sides are fighting a fierce battle, with opponents saying it would be ‘disastrous’ for tourism, while locals contend it’s the only way to move forward.

For people living near the Wiltshire site, it’s been a 20-year battle to ease traffic jams that often bring the surrounding areas to a complete standstill.

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The proposed 1.8-mile long tunnel would greatly ease congestion and travel times. 

A decision is expected to be handed down on Tuesday, and many are eager to learn if the government will get approval for a 1.8-mile (2.9km) long tunnel directly underneath Stonehenge.

Commuters and tourists find themselves trapped daily on the roads surrounding Stonehenge, and the A303 is commonly referred to as Britain’s worst bottleneck.

Nearby Shrewton is constantly hit with traffic from cars doing the ‘rat run’, cutting through other villages to try and save time.

Janice Hassett, from the Stonehenge Traffic Action Group, said: "Our village of Shrewton is packed with traffic every day and older people can't even cross the road to get to the doctors' surgery."

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The National Trust supports the idea of the tunnel, saying it would be deep enough not to damage the archaeology of the site, and arguing that nearby roads cannot be widened because they would then be seen from the site.

Kate Fielden, secretary of the Stonehenge Alliance, says it would take away from the magic of the 5,000-year-old marvel.

"The deep cuttings, the lights, the gantries, the signage - all those things that go with a... four-lane highway - will damage the integrity - by the sight and sound of it - of a number of really important monuments in this landscape,” she said.

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Traffic is at a stand still everyday according to locals. 

"Stonehenge has been designated a site of outstanding universal value by UNESCO and I think it would be very poor of us as humanity to treat it in such a disrespectful manner."

UNESCO has not ruled out stripping the site of its status if the plan goes ahead.

Isabelle Anatole-Gabriel, Chief of Europe and North America at UNESCO, said: "We are not there, we have to assess first what are the potential impacts of any changes which might occur on the values of the site and on its integrity."