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Stonehenge tunnel drilling ‘damages’ ancient structure

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Preparatory drilling for the A303 Stonehenge tunnel has allegedly damaged a 6,000-year-old structure.

Archaeologists have accused Highways England contractors of accidentally drilling a three metre hole through the ancient structure made from flint and animal bone, around a 2.5km from the stones.

However, Highways England claims not to know about the incident which is alleged to have taken place at Blick Mead.

Archaeological lead on the project David Jacques said: “This is a travesty. We took great care to excavate this platform and the aurochs’ hoofprints. We believe hunters considered this area to be a sacred place even before Stonehenge. These monster cows – double the size of normal cattle – provided food for 300 people, so were revered.

“It the tunnel goes ahead the water table will drop and all the organic remains will be destroyed. It may be that there are footprints here which would be the earliest tangible signs of life at Stonehenge. If the remains aren’t preserved we may never be able to understand why Stonehenge was built.”

A Highways England spokesperson added: “We are not aware of any damage being caused to archaeological layers

“Our assessments so far indicate that construction of the scheme will have no significant effects on the Blick Mead area, and we are undertaking this further hydrogeological investigation.

“The works have been undertaken in a highly professional manner, with an archaeologist on site and with due care being exercised at all times.”

Last month, Highways England chief executive Jim O’Sullivan told New Civil Engineer that the A303 project would have to be entirely publicly funded after the government axed PFI and PF2 funding streams.

The National Planning Inspectorate recently said the £1.6bn Stonehenge Tunnel can be considered for a Development Consent Order (DCO), following the first planning round.

The A303 Stonehenge tunnel project is one of the most complex and controversial projects Highways England is undertaking. It involves building a 2.9km long twin-bore tunnel through the World Heritage Site with portals inside its boundaries.

Plans for the tunnel were released as part of the DCO application. They detail how issues such tunnel excavation and spoil disposal will be tackled. 

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