By Ray Fleming
BRITAIN is not short of ancient monuments but Stonehenge has always had a special place among them. Whether it is the unsolved mystery of how these huge stones were ever brought to Salisbury Plain long before the wheel was invented or the questionable connection of its construction with sky worship, the very absence of firm knowledge about the origins of this place have always added to its fascination. The stones and the 6'500 acres that surround them are a World Heritage Site and it might be assumed that the British governmnet and all other interested parties would be anxious to do everything possible to make it as protected an area as possible. However, a mere 250 metres away from Stonehenge's centre is the A303 Andover to Exeter road which carries more than 30'000 vehicles a day. For decades plans have been made and abandoned to put this road underground or to divert it further away. Construction was due to have begun four months ago on a tunnel which would have removed the sight and sound of the traffic from visitors to the site from 2009. Last week, however, it became known that the estimated cost of the tunnel had risen from 284 million pounds to 460 millions because of construction complications. Accordingly the Department of Transport announced that work would be delayed until a review had been carried out into the scheme and its costeffectiveness evaluated. This must be the umpteenth review/inquiry into the best way of giving Stonehenge back its remoteness but no solution ever pleases all the competing interests and there is always a reason for further delay. There was a report recently that Unesco, which is reponsible for World Heritage Sites, was considering withdrawing Cologne Cathedral's status because of intrusive high–rise buildings being constructed near it. Perhaps the best solution for Stonehenge would be for Unesco to supend its World Heritage status until the traffic problem is solved. That might shock the government and all the others involved into long overdue agreement and action. Meanwhile the condition of Stonehenge is a disgrace to Britain.


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