A controversial tunnel will officially be built near Stonehenge, despite opposition from heritage groups, the BBC reports.
The tunnel is part of a larger road redevelopment project meant to decrease traffic near the iconic archaeological site and boost tourism. The plan is projected to cost around £1.7 billion ($2.25 billion), completely overhauling a road that connects London to South West England.
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After years of delays, the project was given approval by Transport Secretary Mark Harper over the weekend.
Archaeologists and concerned heritage groups have long opposed the plan on the grounds that the project could destroy as of yet un-excavated portions of the Stonehenge site, which regularly turns up new artifacts.
In 2021, UNESCO warned that Stonehenge would be added to the World Heritage in Danger list if the tunnel were to be built. The report said that major changes to the infrastructure project would be needed “in order to avoid highly adverse and irreversible impact on [the site’s Outstanding Universal Value], particularly on the integrity of the property.”
The Stonehenge Alliance, a coalition of environmental, archaeological, and heritage groups, has been at the center of resistance to the tunnel project, organizing petitions to legal challenges that led to delays in the scheme’s approval.
“Today, a supposedly Conservative government plans to blow upwards of £2 billion, at a time when the country’s finances are in a shocking state, on a monstrous white elephant of a road development that will permanently disfigure Britain’s most significant and sacred prehistoric landscape,” a Stonehenge Alliance press release read. “The decision of Mark Harper to greenlight the building of a tunnel through a stretch of the World Heritage Site that surrounds Stonehenge is as inexplicable as it is disgraceful. Certainly, no-one can be in any doubt that the scheme will inflict ‘permanent, irreversible harm’ on a landscape that is the supreme icon of British archaeology.”
The Stonehenge Alliance is currently raising funds to pay for legal counsel that can tell them if there is room to once again sue to government to delay or stop the project.