Stonehenge petition to stop 'irreparable' damage from road expansion

A petition signed by 50,000 people to protest against government plans to expand roads near Stonehenge has been handed into Downing Street. Activists with Stonehenge Alliance were pictured outside the prime minister's residence on Wednesday as they delivered their petition addressed to the transport and culture secretaries. They are calling on the government to rethink its plans to upgrade the regularly congested A303 with a 1.8-mile long tunnel and dual carriageway that would cross the World Heritage Site in Wiltshire.

It was originally planned to restore the atmosphere in the area around the Neolithic stone circle and ease traffic on the main road linking London and Devon, but the group says construction would be damaging to the landscape.

Image: The Neolithic stone circle in Wiltshire is a hugely popular tourist attraction

Anything shorter than a deeply-bored tunnel of 4.5km (2.8 miles) in length would cause "irreparable" damage to the archaeologically rich area, the group said. Advertisement "All archaeology in the construction zones would be destroyed and the A303 would become the largest ever human intervention in an area fashioned and revered by over a hundred generations of our ancestors."

The group also maintains the project is poor value for money and ignores climate change issues.

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One fifth of the tens of thousands of signatories on the petition are from outside the UK, which the group says highlights the international interest in the project. It points out that UNESCO's World Heritage Committee has already opposed the proposed road expansion from the current plans. Author, historian, broadcaster and Stonehenge Alliance president Tom Holland said the plans amounted to "an abomination" that would disfigure the landscape.

He said: "For 4,500 years, Stonehenge has stood amid a landscape that was itself sacred for millennia prior to the building of its most celebrated monument. "The issue that faces us now as a country is whether the site exists solely to provide a tourist experience, or whether it is the expression of something more significant, both historically and spiritually. "That the government can seriously contemplate injecting enormous quantities of concrete into this unique site, and disfiguring it with multiple lanes of tarmac, seems to me an abomination."

Meanwhile, Time Team presenter and campaign supporter Sir Tony Robinson said it was "a complete farce to expect to solve congestion and preserve the site by building a huge new expressway there."

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