Britain scraps 540-mln-pound Stonehenge tunnel project

December 7th, 2007 - 6:47 pm ICT by admin  

London , Dec 7 (ANI): The British Government has scrapped a 540-million-pound Stonehenge tunnel project, which was seen as a threat to the future of rare wildlife, including the red-listed shorebird stone curlew, surrounding the site.

The alternative plans to build a new road on the site was also ruled out.

Announcing this, the Department for Transport said that significant environmental constraints meant there were no acceptable alternatives to the tunnel, which was recommended by public inquiry in 2004.

A new road-building project would have jeopardised the habitat of the stone curlew, for which Wiltshire’s chalk grassland is one of only two main UK breeding sites for the bird, The Independent reported, adding that the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said more than 20 other bird species, butterflies and rare plants would have been harmed by building a road above ground.

Earlier, the Government had seen the tunnel as transforming the Stonehenge landscape and giving Britain ’s most famous World Heritage Site the dignified surroundings it deserves. But as the cost of the project soared from 223m pounds to 540m pounds, Transport minister Tom Harris said that allocating such sums for the tunnel “cannot be justified and would not represent the best use of British taxpayers’ money”.

Welcoming this, Friends of the Earth’s South-west campaigner, Mike Birkin, said: “This is great news for the future of the Stonehenge world heritage site. This road would have encouraged more traffic and damaged one of the most precious archaeological sites on the planet.”

He added: “We must invest in low-carbon, sustainable alternatives to the nation’s transport problems. The PS1bn saved should be spent on sustainable transport projects for the South-west more suited to a low-carbon future, such as an upgrade of the Exeter to Waterloo railway line.”

However, the idea to drop the tunnel project did not go down well with charity RSPB, which had been backing the proposal to help ease the existing traffic pressure on the delicate habitat at what is a World Heritage Site.

“The tunnel was an opportunity to improve the wonderful landscape of Stonehenge , the experience for its visitors and the safety of passing motorists, said Tony Richardson, the South-west regional director for the RSPB.
“It is a great shame that it is not going ahead but a huge relief that the Government has rejected overground alternatives that would dissect the site. The tunnel was the most environmentally sensitive option. We hope that changes to planning law do not make an overground road easier to push through in future, he added. (ANI)

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