The International Council on Monuments and Sites UK (ICOMOS-UK) has “strongly objected” Highways England’s Stonehenge tunnel plans.
The conservation body has supported claims by the Stonehenge Alliance that the proposed £1.6bn works would damage important archaeological remains at the site.
In a letter to Highways England, ICOMOS-UK World Heritage Committee chair Peter Marsden said that the organisation is “alarmed” by the “flawed” proposals and he has urged Highways England to consider a “wider range” of solutions to its A303 project.
“ICOMOS-UK wishes to register a strong objection to these proposals in view of the substantial negative and irreversible impact we believe that the dual carriageways at both ends of the tunnel would have,” the letter read.
“In our view, the overall preferred route project is severely flawed and its impacts cannot be readily mitigated; it is essential that the whole project be re-assessed and a wider range of routes and construction options explored before a public consultation by the Government is recommended.”
ICOMOS-UK has concluded that the proposed 2.9km twin-bored tunnel would be “too short” to protect the World Heritage Site “as its leaves some 2.2 km of the dual carriageways in cuttings at either end”.
The letter continued: “The whole project appears to have been retro-fitted to an initial budget, driven by road/tunnel making and not by an assumption that one of the world’s most significant and iconic WHSs has to be protected;
“We are alarmed that insufficient attention has been given to the long-term technical issues associated with tunnelling and tunnelling management/maintenance given the life expectancy of the project is only a hundred years.”
Responding to the ICOMOS-UK Highways England project manager for the A303 Stonehenge scheme David Bullock said: “With the Government committed to investing £1.6 billion to improve the A303 near Stonehenge , this provides us with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to deliver a scheme to cut congestion on this vital route, improve journey times, help address rat-running on local roads and provide a huge boost to the economy in the South West, linking people with jobs and businesses with customers.
“At the same time, the scheme will enhance and protect the 10,000-acre World Heritage Site by reuniting the landscape and sustaining its Outstanding Universal Value.
“Consultation on the A303 Stonehenge scheme closed on Monday (23 April), which gave everyone the chance to have their say on the scheme proposals, and Highways England will carefully read and consider every piece of feedback from all interested parties.
“In the meantime, we are continuing to work closely with Historic England, English Heritage and the National Trust to ensure our plans significantly benefit and protect the Stonehenge WHS, and we will continue to actively engage and listen to everyone who has an interest in this scheme.”