Thursday, 8 June 2017

UNESCO Report on the Stonehenge Tunnel Proposal

The World Heritage Committee;

Expresses concern that the 2.9km Stonehenge tunnel options and their associated 2.2km of dual carriageway approach roads within the property that are under consideration, would impact adversely the OUV (Outstanding Universal Value) of the property;

Urges the State Party to explore further options with a view to avoiding impacts on the OUV of the property, including:

  • The F10 non-tunnel by-pass option to the south of the property,
  • Longer tunnel options to remove dual carriageway cuttings from the property and further detailed investigations regarding tunnel alignment and both east and west portal locations;


(Draft Decision 41 COM 7B.56)

Full text:

Road and traffic affect the integrity, condition and setting of the property and the experience of visitors and local people. The main A303 road runs for 5.5km across the centre of the property and was noted as an issue at the time of inscription. The State Party is now committed to addressing its impact as part of a major infrastructure project to upgrade a road route between London and the West of England. A feasibility study for this overall A303/A358/A30 route corridor was prepared in 2014.
The State Party position is that a road improvement scheme for the Stonehenge section that includes a twin-bored tunnel of at least 2.9km, with dual carriageway approach roads on either side, has the potential to deliver benefits by removing the surface road from the central parts of the property.
For the Stonehenge part of the project, a technical advisory working group, was convened including English Heritage (now Historic England), the National Trust and Wiltshire Council, and the local planning authority.
The State Party invited an initial UNESCO/ICOMOS Advisory mission in October 2015, to advise on the overall processes. The mission report is available at: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list373/documents and informed Highways England’s development of possible route options. Public Consultation on two preferred route options involving a 2.9km tunnel occurred during January and February 2017.
A second Advisory mission to consider the emerging proposals occurred in February 2017. The mission report acknowledges the responses to the first advisory mission recommendations, particularly on processes, archaeological investigations and assessments, but notes that some matters are yet to be implemented. This second mission recommends that a non-tunnel by-pass to the south of the property be re-considered and that further work should also occur on longer tunnel options, particularly in relation to portal location and potential impact on the overall Stonehenge cultural landscape and the setting of the property.

Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2017

Considering the iconic status of the property, the State Party and its agencies should continue to proceed thoroughly and cautiously, to ensure that the optimal solution is identified and implemented for the widening of the A303. The governance and decision making processes for the project is sophisticated, but has not afforded sufficient priority to the OUV of the property. While a range of issues and factors must be balanced, the appropriate approach is to avoid adverse impacts on the OUV of the property. It is not considered satisfactory to suggest that the benefits from a 2.9km tunnel to the centre of the property can offset significant damage from lengths of four lane approach roads in cuttings elsewhere in the property.
The State Party and its relevant agencies have responded to the recommendations of the first mission, but some matters, such as establishing a ‘scientific committee’ are yet to be implemented.
Following the first mission a broad range of options remained under consideration, although media attention has focused on a tunnel proposal of at least 2.9km. Additional research, archaeological investigations and iterations of Heritage Impact Assessments (HIA) have identified that an alternative bypass route (the F10) would have no impact on OUV and could bring significant benefits to the property and the wider Stonehenge landscape, and therefore warrants further consideration, even though it was ruled out prior to the public consultation in early 2017.
The 2.9km tunnel options presented in the public consultation would cause adverse impact on the OUV of the property from their approach roads and associated portals. Both portals would have visual impact, but the extent of new roads beyond, within the property, is of greater concern. The potential impact of some 2.2km of four lane approach roads in cuttings on the Stonehenge landscape could fundamentally compromise the OUV of the property.
If the western portal were to be moved to or outside the property boundary, the approach roads (and their impacts) would shift outside the property, where dual carriageways are already planned. Determination of the precise location would require further investigations as well as consideration of the best alignment for a longer tunnel.
The current positioning of the eastern tunnel portal to the east of the 'Avenue', on-line on the current path of the A303 road, but still within the property, mitigates its impact, but further adjustment of the location for this portal, closer to Countess Roundabout, should be considered, noting that other issues, including potential impacts on Blick Mead and Vespasian’s Camp archaeological sites, where recent investigations have uncovered new significant archaeological finds, must also be addressed.
The project is a government project, and it is therefore within the power of the State Party and its agencies to decide when to lodge applications or take other actions which trigger commencement of statutory timelines. Therefore, it should be possible to align the project process with the timeframe of the Committee statutory meetings. Achieving an optimal outcome requires a continuing, thorough, reflective, process. Provision should be made to ensure that the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and the Committee can continue to contribute to the evaluation and decision making processes at appropriate stages.

Draft Decision: 41 COM 7B.56

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/17/41.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 35 COM 7B.116, adopted at its 35th session (UNESCO, 2011),
  3. Takes note with satisfaction of the management achievements, and progress with implementation of previous Committee Decisions, to address protection and management issues identified in the Statement of Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) for the property;
  4. Commends the State Party for having invited two Advisory missions to advise on the process for determining and evaluating options for the proposed upgrading of the main A303 road across the property, as part of a wide major infrastructure project;
  5. Expresses concern that the 2.9km Stonehenge tunnel options and their associated 2.2km of dual carriageway approach roads within the property that are under consideration, would impact adversely the OUV of the property;
  6. Urges the State Party to explore further options with a view to avoiding impacts on the OUV of the property, including: 
    1. The F10 non-tunnel by-pass option to the south of the property,
    2. Longer tunnel options to remove dual carriageway cuttings from the property and further detailed investigations regarding tunnel alignment and both east and west portal locations;
  7. Encourages the State Party to address the findings and implement the recommendations of both Advisory missions and to invite further World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Advisory missions to the property, to be financed by the State Party, in order to continue to facilitate progress towards an optimal solution for the widening of the A303 to ensure no adverse impact on the OUV of the property;
  8. Requests the State Party to manage the timing of the consent and other statutory processes for the A303 trunk road project to ensure that the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and the World Heritage Committee can continue to contribute to the evaluation and decision-making processes at appropriate stages;
  9. Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2018, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 42nd session in 2018.

No comments:

Post a comment