Following an invitation from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, ICOMOS, advisors to the World Heritage Committee and UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) will visit the Stonehenge World Heritage Site this week (27-30 October) and familiarise themselves with the site and the Government’s proposal for a new road tunnel of at least 2.9km to remove much of the A303 from the Stonehenge landscape.
Welcomed by Historic England and the National Trust, the organisations will meet many of the relevant stakeholders including English Heritage, Wiltshire Council and local councils. No plans are yet in place, but Historic England, the National Trust and English Heritage are committed to ensuring that any road improvement scheme within this special landscape protects and enhances the Stonehenge World Heritage Site. The invitation to visit was extended to UNESCO and ICOMOS at this early stage to ensure the organisations can work together in the most effective way enabling the World Heritage Committee and its advisory bodies to offer advice as the road scheme plans develop.
Ian Wilson, National Trust Assistant Director of Operations for Dorset and Wiltshire says:
“We are very pleased that UNESCO and ICOMOS accepted DCMS’ invitation. They will be spending several days here getting to know the landscape and the outline proposals. At the top of our list is agreeing how we can best work together to ensure that any scheme to tackle the blight of the road that dominates the Stonehenge Landscape is located in the right place and designed and built to the specification befitting a World Heritage Site.”
Historic England and the National Trust have been working together closely to ensure a positive outcome for the World Heritage Site for some time. They have a longstanding relationship with UNESCO and ICOMOS and it is expected that this trip will be the first of several visits to come.
Phil McMahon, Inspector of Ancient Monuments at Historic England in the South West said:
“We are very happy that advisors from UNESCO and ICOMOS have accepted the invitation to visit the Stonehenge World Heritage Site this week. We anticipate that this will be the first of a number of advisory visits and part of an ongoing constructive relationship with the international advisors as Highways England’s proposal emerges over the next few years.”
Kate Davies, English Heritage’s General Manager of Stonehenge, says: “We’re looking forward to showing the advisors the recent improvements to Stonehenge, especially the removal of the old visitor centre and the grassing over of the A344, and highlighting how removing the A303 from the landscape would improve people’s understanding and enjoyment of the ancient stones and their setting.”
In December 2014 the UK Government announced that it would be investing in a new tunnel of at least 2.9km to remove the A303 from the Stonehenge Landscape as part of its Road Investment Strategy. Historic England, the National Trust and English Heritage welcomed this announcement.