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High court victory for Stonehenge campaigners as tunnel is ruled unlawful (theguardian.com)
75 points by Tomte 51 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 72 comments



I have driven past this stretch of road a hundred times, and it’s painful. 15-20mph for a good 10 mile stretch all because of people “rubber necking” to see the henge. As soon as you’re past it, instantly back up to 60mph.

But you know what would sort it… a hedge. A simple hedge. Stick something in the way of the drivers seeing the thing from the road, and you’ve cured the problem.

Why it is insisted that a multi-million (probably billion as costs will overrun) pound highway tunnel project is required, I have no idea. Just plant a bloody hedge!


> Why it is insisted that a multi-million (probably billion as costs will overrun) pound highway tunnel project is required [...] Just plant a bloody hedge!

At the risk of sounding cynical about the current state of UKGOV, you can't really bung your mates a hedge planting contract and expect to get something in return later.


Came here to say this.


The hedge would have to be absolutely massive to hide the henge when you are heading West. The way the road dips down before you get to it means that you would easily see it over any normal size hedge. Even if the it's a fleeting glimpse, it doesn't solve the problem as people will still rubber neck. If anything it will make it worse.

And seeing the controversy is due to the fact that it's the whole landscape that is historic, arguing that you should put a massive a-historic hedge straight across it undermines the main argument against the other proposals.

Do you really think that the planners haven't thought of a hedge and discarded the idea?


How about an absolutely massive hedge in the shape of Stonehenge, called Stonehedge, right next to the road, so everyone can see it easily?


There is a 'Woodhenge' nearby ;)


Classic.


I wonder what would happen if you were to say walk along the roadside with a rucksack full of fast growing pine tree seeds which unfortunately had a small leak, letting all the pine seeds fall onto the verge?

10 years later, problem solved. And the tunnel is probably still being argued about in court.


If someone were to take trips with leaky rucksacks in that area, I would recommend loading up a variety of native tree species such as those species listed by the woodland trust.


>Do you really think that the planners haven't thought of a hedge and discarded the idea?

I know this is a bit trite but it wouldn't surprise me given the UK government's record in this area, questionable transport policy is as British as complaining about the weather.


Split the difference, dig a trench/valley to put the highway in.

Bonus points for the noise reduction vs a hedge/fence.


The main issue isn't the rubbernecking. It's that a largely dual carriageway A303 is reduced to single carriageway at this point. Similar jams occur frequently at other points along the road where this happens.


True, but the other direction is simply the rubber necking as it’s single lane on the approach. Plus in the direction you are stating, there’s a clear backlog from directly next to the henge - 20mph traffic until the instant people are past where it heads straight back to 60mph. A hedge can only but help that situation.


Whilst it must be annoying if you're a local, I'd suggest that slowing down and rubber necking is exactly the correct response to have when passing something as classically awesome as the henge.

What would solve the problem easily (rather than trying to hide it with a hedge), would be to do as they do up in Scotland in the national parks: Provide plenty of parking places anywhere the henge is in view. I drove through Galloway National Park a few weeks ago and every 200 yards the scenery changes to another amazing view and every 200 yards or so, there's somehwre you can safely stop and enjoy it. People can now safely stop to have a look and take photos, and traffic on the road can drive.

If people are amazed enough at a piece of national heritage that they want to admire it, hiding it from view seems like entirely the wrong response.


If you do that then they can't charge you to view it


> "Stick something in the way of the drivers seeing the thing from the road, and you’ve cured the problem."

Rubbernecking is not the only problem. The existing A303 road splits the Stonehenge landscape in half. The whole ambiance of Stonehenge is kind of ruined by the roar of the trunk road running right next to it.


> "15-20mph for a good 10 mile stretch all because of people “rubber necking” to see the henge. As soon as you’re past it, instantly back up to 60mph."

This might also be due to the fact that the largely dual-carriageway A303 narrows and becomes a single-lane road through the Stonehenge site.


If I recall the drive correctly that could work quite well in the towards London direction, but there's both a difference in elevation and two lanes merging into one the other way.


This is an extremely stupid headline and article, in a long list of extremely stupid headlines when it comes to judicial reviews (JDs).

1. The the tunnel wasn't ruled unlawful, the decision making process was. Very big difference. 2. The decision making process was said to be 'unlawful' because the minister failed to properly consider the alternatives, which he/she is required to do under common law. JDs have successfully backed judges into reading ministers minds. 3. Note use of the word 'unlawful' and note bad-faith out-riders without liability who will say 'illegal'. Not the same thing. Unlawful means that the minister didn't fully fulfil he/his requirements under law (common law in this case), not that they contravened a specific law. 4. Grant Shapps is genuinely stupid and could have easily tried to 'consider' alternatives and come up against the limits of his own mind. https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2015/03/eight-weirdest... 5. Nobody has an actual alternative. The A303 is utterly broken and causes knock-on problems all over that area of the UK. The tunnel is an expensive alternative to improving that road (which already runs within 150m of stonehenge). 6. UNESCO has nearly 100% employee capture at this stage. Saying UNESCO oppose it is saying that bug-burger-promoting elites living in Geneva think it's a bit bad. 7. Historic England, who managed the landmark, back the proposal for a tunnel 8. “Ideally, such a tunnel would begin and end outside the world heritage site. But now that we are facing a climate emergency, it is all the more important that this ruling should be a wake-up call for the government." Just what?


> JDs have successfully backed judges into reading ministers minds.

No need for mind reading, if there is no documentation for the process (meeting notes) or its results they probably didn't do it correctly if at all.

> 5. Nobody has an actual alternative.

Weird, the road in question was at points in (recent) history completely abandoned. Then gained a higher status despite reports pointing out how irrelevant it was, until it was finally upgraded because it was easier than fixing the A30[1]. Either the Wikipedia entry is lacking some important information that makes it necessary to build a road through Stonehenge or no one looked at the alternatives present in the past.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A303_road


But this is the problem with a JD on the common law standard of 'considered other options' - what does it mean to consider? It's utterly to do with the state of mind of the person doing the reviewing.

Because of JDs, and because of, no offence, comments like this - gov lawyers feel compelled to write down literally everything to prove they 'considered'. But a lack of ass covering doesn't prove that the consideration didn't occur.

--

huh? even the protestors agree that the road needs an upgrade?

I'm not going to read a whole wikipedia article. It's a highly congested major road. It needs an upgrade and the stonehenge 'site' is massive. https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/stonehenge/...


> But a lack of ass covering doesn't prove that the consideration didn't occur.

I guess you have the entire UK traffic situation memorized. Didn't have to talk with anyone else about it, didn't need a single meeting or phone call to reach that state of omniscience.

> It's a highly congested major road.

Well if that is the issue, just close the road, no more congestion on it and I also didn't have to ask anyone, or do any traffic analysis that might require paperwork for it.


You think that the UKGOV Transport Secretary doesn't know about, or think about the UK motorway and A-road system?

> Well if that is the issue, just close the road, no more congestion on it and I also didn't have to ask anyone, or do any traffic analysis that might require paperwork for it.

This is a meme right? You're memeing what a stupid person might say?


>This is a meme right? You're memeing what a stupid person might say?

In case you actually don’t get it. What they are clearly doing is using hyperbole to point out that the road upgrade can only be shown to be a good idea if they can also show that they looked at the whole situation, all the options, and still concluded that upgrading that specific road is the only reasonable option.

Their hyperbolic example is that if road congestion is the problem, just close the road. Problem solved. Obviously, that is a myopic look at only that road that technically solves the problem, while clearly making things worse in practice, since vehicles would still have to use other roads. This paralleled the myopic thinking that there is road congestion on one road, so the only solution is to upgrade that one road, while not considering all the other roads and the interplay of traffic patterns and if/how congestion could be solved using other roads or methods.


> "Weird, the road in question was at points in (recent) history completely abandoned."

I don't think you are correct that the A303 was ever abandoned, at least in modern times. It's been the primary route between London and South-West England for many decades.


Adding that recent was bad in hindsight. The roads around Stonehenge had been around for a long time, but fell into disuse due to alternatives some years before the A303 was build.


> The A303 is utterly broken and causes knock-on problems all over that area of the UK.

Yeah. I popped up a map to see if I could think of a better route round the situation, but the options aren't great for "how to get to the southwest of England from London". Go north and take the M4/M5, which is the main route to Wales and already busy? Or go south, M3, and get bogged down somewhere west of Bournemouth? Expanding a motorway through the New Forest isn't going to be popular either.

Note that the tunnel proposal as written was cut and cover, which would involve digging up all the archaeologically-significant land above it, rather than a bored tunnel.


> 5. Nobody has an actual alternative.

Many of the campaigners aren't actually arguing against the idea of a tunnel. They're arguing that the tunnel should be longer. The current 2-mile design has it's portals being constructed within the world heritage site, which will involve huge cuttings and excavation which will obviously be disruptive to the archaeology.


Okay. So the campaigners sort of say this in the article but then also say nah actually we're against roads because climate change (not how climate change works). The quote is in my comment.

On the subject of a 'longer tunnel' - there are basically two main problems

1. The stone henge 'site' is massive and gets bigger or smaller depending on who you're talking to. Like, kilometers big and tunnel costs basically scale with each km dug.

2. The main issue with tunnelling is the risk of disturbing archaeological sites. More tunnelling = more disturbance.

I actually don't have a good solution to this very difficult, multi-actor, ill-defined problem set. But it's so dumb for a JR to come in and be like 'haha they didn't consider the alternatives to the ill defined common law definition'.

Like, no one even bloody knows what the common law standard is. Judges make it up on the fly (they have no other option since its common law and JDs have only taken off in the last ten years) and newspapers gulp it down, then regurgitate it back into the screaming chick's open mouth.


Miserable bit of road. One 60 mph stretch by Stonehenge is so reliabley congested protestors walk up between the cars with leaflets demanding a dual carriageway. To be honest the whole south coastline of the UK is a narrow road winding through the middle of towns and villages. You don't quite drive through farmyards scattering geese but it's often close.


It's unfortunate that the ancient Britons built Stonehenge pretty much exactly where you'd want a motorway from Exter to London to run.

What's worse is the state of the railways in the south west.


> "It's unfortunate that the ancient Britons built Stonehenge pretty much exactly where you'd want a motorway from Exter to London to run."

I remember seeing a documentary once that argued this was no accident. Stonehenge was a site meant to be visited, centrally located and easy to access. The route of the A303, more or less, has likely existed since ancient times, pre-dating Stonehenge.


The only thing worse than the railways in the South West are the railways everywhere other than the South East.


As I don't have a car, the South West is really the only part of Great Britain that I haven't explored.

Really wish we could build some decent rail infrastructure out there...


To be fair you can actually get to most part of the south west by train, it's just slow. As someone whose parents live in that part of the world I'd definitely appreciate faster trains though.


The train to Bath and Bristol (from London) is sufficiently good to use as a daily commuter if necessary (I’ve done it from Bath in the past even before the 2019 schedule reworking), but going anywhere further south west by train is pretty miserable. It’s particularly sad if you look at the pre-Beeching map and consider what could have been there instead.


At this point it feels like the heavy traffic past Stonehenge is part of our national cultural identity.

What is a liberty is English Heritage getting the road that goes beside the monument closed and charging an absolute fortune for tickets. They still run old diesel busses up and down that road. The bus drivers treat it like a racing track and it feels rather perilous to walk up the permissive path (after being made to feel like a criminal at the visitors centre!)


National Trust....They are notorious for exploiting their managed cultural heritage. The biggest scam of all is the Northern Ireland Giant causeway where they trick you into paid parking and museum entrance whereas the site itself is free. All tourists are falling into this trap. Stonehenge is the ultimate example of an overpriced ugly tourist spoiled site. Nothing of its authentic history can be experienced there. Much better to visit the smaller sites which are not managed by The National Trust.


The exhibition centre is actually pretty good. I took a few kids there recently and it really helped them understand how neolithic people might have lived. It was expensive, but we had a really good time.

National trust are awful though (although I believe Stone Hedge is actually English Heritage). Anyone interested in seeing a more authentic neolithic site would be better off visiting one of the many free to access long barrow and hill forts.

Stoney Littleton Long Barrow is one of my personal favourites. It's a lovely walk to the site and the site itself is beautiful and completely free. You can even explore the barrow and touch the stones.


It's English Heritage. You can get in with a national trust card but it's run by English Heritage.


Isn’t there an extremely high probability that a tunnel will run into archaeological sites that might derail or postpone the tunnel being built?


Yes, in the south of the UK an infrastructure project beyond a mile in length or so is almost certain to hit some form of archaeological site. Graves, coins, roman roads, villas, mammoths, boats, swords, the list just goes on.


Yes. the ceremonial nature of the landscape for miles around makes it an investment in 2-3x the apparent cost of the route for specific archeology reasons, which most financial planners cannot entertain seriously.

Same with a deep tunnel. I don't think 150m down there would be substantive archeology. I don't think anyone is willing to countenance going below the remains is viable.


You might want to take a look at how painful the undersea tunnel across the Bosphorus have been. Quite a well written article as well: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/08/31/the-big-dig

In short — when contract builders determine depths of tunnels based on earliest known human habitation, it’s often the case that they find humans got there earlier than thought. Then the proposed great solution to the traffic problems instead becomes an archeological dig site for the next decade.


> Same with a deep tunnel. I don't think 150m down there would be substantive archeology. I don't think anyone is willing to countenance going below the remains is viable.

Usually it's the opposite: things well buried tend to last longer.


Sort of like the joke among those building Finland's nuclear waste repository: they'd dig a mile under the bedrock to create a storage chamber for the waste, and what they'd find in the mining spoils would be... perfectly preserved, 500,000 year old copper canisters. Filled with formerly-radioactive waste.


The point is that 150 meters down would likely be older significant human inhabitation of the area.


Have no skin in this game, but a tunnel doesn't sound like a crazy idea all things considered.


According to the article the campaigners want the tunnel to be longer so that it goes completely under the site rather than through it.


Might be worth noting that the Stonehenge complex is much larger than the henge itself, and isn’t particularly well researched yet:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durrington_Walls?wprov=sfti1

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stonehenge,_Avebury_and_Associ...

These also sit in a grander context of a European wide network of structures which we are only starting to grasp an understanding of.


The major A303 highway already passes within 150m of Stonehenge. [1] Surely it's a massive improvement to put it in a tunnel regardless.

Unfortunately often protests seeking a perfect outcome stand in the way of any progress.

[1] https://www.google.com/maps/place/Stonehenge/@51.1773294,-1....


> stand in the way of any progress.

What does this mean? If they have to build the road and/or tunnel farther away from the henge, is that not progress?

Or should they just demolish the damn thing, because that's progress?

The UK spends significant funds to preserve historical sites; this is a historical site. And preserving them is progress.


It depends:-

* Does blocking a short tunnel mean you get a long tunnel instead? Or does it mean the road remains on the surface?

* Does the damage to the site from excavating a tunnel outweigh the improvement of the site by hiding the unsightly roadway?

* Does the climate emergency mean we should stop expanding roads for cars all together? Is a £1.7bn tunnel already too much to spend on cars, to say nothing of an even longer one?

If they've successfully blocked the short tunnel but instead they get to keep the congested surface road for another 30 years, that seems like an own goal to me...


Every alternative route in that area goes through a significant archaeological site. You are resigned to either disturbing something somewhere or going very deep under it.

The campaigners have only really delayed an equally unpalatable decision somewhere else.


> The Stonehenge Alliance has campaigned from the start for a longer tunnel if a tunnel should be considered necessary.

The protests weren't against using a tunnel - they asked for a more nuanced and considered approach to a tunnel.


They delayed the tunnel another 2 years (minimum) in pursuit of a more costly complicated solution.


Wow, why on earth would one dig a tunnel there?! Its open fields. If moving the highway a way from Stonehenge is valuable: then move the highway into other fields. Don't spend 1.5 Instagrams on a tunnel.


The whole area for miles around is littered with significant archaeology.


In _a_ tunnel yes, but not this one. The argument isn’t against tunnels in general, just the damage that would be done by the current plan.


What's wrong with a tunnel? To be honest I would love it if all highways were put under the ground- but obviously that would be too expensive.


At this point any highway expansion is climate arson.


At this point anything short of mass murdering the world's population is climate arson. Am I doing this correctly?


No, you need more urgency in your tone. And some scattershot votes from sockpuppets.

But don't worry, with practice you'll get better at it!


I think the counterpoint is that if in ten years most cars are electric, then that is not really a fair characterization. If electric cars and buses and trucks remain the most prevalent form of transit, then roads will continue to be very important, and that includes highways. There are plenty of safety projects that aren’t really about expansion, but about repairing, maintaining, and making better. (Or in this case, to get cars hidden away so they aren’t noisy and distracting in a historic site.)

(Aside, I also don’t like highways in cities.)


If we're very lucky in ten years most new cars sold will be electric. That is very different from most cars on the road being electric. It is also unlikely that the electric grid will be carbon free in ten years.


I've heard we have no idea how to recycle li-ion batteries, so the whole electric car thing is rather tenuous.


That's not true, electric vehicle batteries will have large quantities of valuable materials worth recycling, and companies are already working on this. https://spectrum.ieee.org/amp/lithiumion-battery-recycling-f...


Replace highways with high speed rail and you run into the same problems.

The Japanese when they built their shinkansen demolished countless old temples and ran straight through beautiful nature.


Lay gravel down on the ground, then build a highway on top of that.

Archaeology will be preserved underneath for future generations to find when they have a better solution for what to do with the vehicular traffic.


You think the A303 is what, a mud track? They have roads in England. Have for quite a while.



Yeah, but by doing that they can widen it to 3 lanes each way without putting the archaeology at risk. And if needed they can put up sound/vision blocking 'living fences' so views aren't damaged.




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