For a Second Time, UNESCO Urges Against Plan to Build Tunnel Near Stonehenge

UNESCO has once again urged the UK government to “not proceed” with its controversial plan to build a two-mile tunnel close to Stonehenge. Because of that plan, for the first time ever, Stonehenge is now at risk of being added to the cultural body’s list of endangered World Heritage sites. 

The £1.7 billion plan was approved earlier this year by Mark Harper, the UK’s transport security head, and is being overseen by a UK government agency called National Highways. The scheme would reroute the A303 road, which runs parallel to the ancient stone circle in Wiltshire, and turn it into a dual-carriage highway that will pass close to the site. The existing A303 road would be transformed into a public walkway.

The request from the World Heritage Committee, the UN’s cultural body, to alter the redevelopment was endorsed by 21 member states.

According to the statement, the plan “remains a threat” to the overall value of Stonehenge as a site.

This is the second time UNESCO has made such a statement. The organization previously threatened to add Stonehenge to its list of endangered World Heritage sites in 2021.

UNESCO said this was its second request to the State Party that it “not proceed with the implementation of the scheme for the section between Amesbury and Berwick Down in its current form, and considers that the minimum change required must include an extension of the underground section of the western approach to at least the western boundary of the property.” It has asked the UK government to make the requested alterations to the plan by February 1, 2024.

In 2019, UNESCO announced its opposition to the proposal, saying that the new tunnel will have an “adverse impact”. Two years later, it warned that Stonehedge could be added to its list of endangered World Heritage sites if the tunnel project proceeds in its current state.