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Stonehenge stakeholders square up at public inquiry

LEADING STAKEHOLDERS in Stonehenge are pitched against each other at the Stonehenge tunnel inquiry, which began last month in Salisbury.

The Highways Agency and English Heritage are squaring up against the National Trust, the Campaign to Protect Rural England and druids.

English Heritage, which owns the 5,000-year-old monument in trust for the nation, supports the Highways Agency's controversial proposal for a 2km bored tunnel.

Although the tunnel would mean the road was no longer visible from the stones, its entrance portals would still be within the Stonehenge world heritage site, which many regard as one vast sacred landscape.

English Heritage expert witness Christopher Young argued the £200M Highways Agency scheme was the best realistic solution.

However the National Trust, which owns thousands of hectares of surrounding downland, is expected to make the case for a 4km long tunnel with portals beyond the world heritage site.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England also supports the longer tunnel option, which has an estimated budget of £350M. Paul Hamblin, head of transport policy for the group, said: 'It would appear that a more affordable option has been presented at the expense of the integrity of a world heritage site.

'The site is important not just because of the stones themselves but also the landscape that surrounds them. The portals would be an alien intrusion into this historic landscape.'

The inquiry, which is expected to last until the end of April, will hear more than 100 witnesses, representing 50 interest groups.

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