‘Digging deeper’: the Stonehenge controversy that is dividing the public

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The government’s approval of plans to dig a tunnel near the world-famous landmark is making people angry.

Most people know Stonehenge as the ‘pile of rocks’ vaguely resembling a circle on Salisbury Plain. It is regarded as one of Britain’s greatest mysteries- attracting historians, tourists, and everyone in between.

Standing as one of Britain’s most famous landmarks, Stonehenge has long been a place of fascination and discovery that achieved its ‘World Heritage’ status in 1986.

The iconic monument is surrounded by rolling green fields, beautiful forests, stunning views and of course the A303, the road that passes Stonehenge on the way to the beaches of Devon and Cornwall.

Anyone who has driven down this ‘road to the sun’, as it’s informally known, will know how jarring the 150 kilometres of tarmac can be; not just due to its stark appearance in comparison to the countryside, but also because of the miles of traffic that gathers along it.

As a Wiltshire local myself, I have often driven (or rather crawled) my way from point A to point B, adding hours to my travel time. And the main culprit? The view of Stonehenge.

The problems caused by the A303 near the landmark are not a new issue; the government had been suggesting a tunnel be dug near the World Heritage Site since 1995, and finally, this year, it was approved.

“It’s like someone proposing a flyover above the Pyramids, you just wouldn’t do it.”

John Adams OBE

The plans have received extreme anger and severe backlash from certain members of the public who believe that the tunnel will have devastating effects on the surrounding environment, historical landscape, and the preservation of the stones themselves.

John Adams OBE, Chairman of the Stonehenge Alliance who has gathered more than 227,000 signatures opposing the plans, described the adverse effects of the three kilometre tunnel which involves “motorway scale cuttings” to the landscape.

“It will cause permanent and irreversible damage to the World Heritage Site,” he says, and will also affect the surrounding projects, namely the ongoing excavation of Blick Mead which has revealed unprecedented information about Mesolithic gatherings and is located metres from the proposed tunnel.

Adams also spoke about the plan to add a bridge near the landmark stating: “It’s like someone proposing a flyover above the Pyramids, you just wouldn’t do it.”

He did acknowledge the ‘congestion problem’, however, he argued that it was not solely down to the view of Stonehenge, but also the merging of the dual lanes into a single carriageway just before the site comes into view.

He questions the point of the government’s plans, asking, “Why spend £2.5bn when all the tunnel will do is cause the same congestion seven miles down the road?”

It is clear why this proposal has caused division. From a local’s point of view, the relief from immediate and seemingly endless lines of traffic as tourists slow down and gawk at the landmark would be welcome.

However, a part of me knows that I will miss the sight of that lumbering structure, as well as the faces of the tourists whose days have been made by the famous ‘pile of rocks.’

Featured image by Stephanie LeBlanc via Unsplash.

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