Wiltshire

Stonehenge solstice sunset view 'will be ruined by tunnel'

Stonehenge solstitial alignment Image copyright Silent Earth Films
Image caption Campaigners say the view of the winter solstice sunset will be ruined by the tunnel entrance (location of archaeological dig marked in orange)

The entrance to a proposed road tunnel beneath Stonehenge would ruin views of the winter solstice sunset from the stone circle, it has been claimed.

Anti-tunnel campaigners say artificial light from it would create a permanent "glow" and put an end to the phenomenon of a "last flash" as the sun goes down.

The proposed location for the western portal of the A303 tunnel is directly in line with the "sun gap", they claim.

Highways England said it was still looking at all options for the road.

Chairman of Amesbury Museum and Heritage Trust, Andy Rhind-Tutt, said an exploratory archaeological dig currently taking place about 800m (0.5 mile) from the monument, was related to the proposed location of the western portal, and was directly in line with the solstice alignment.

"The point about Stonehenge is all about sunset and sunrise and celebrating the end of the dark nights.

Image copyright Simon Banton
Image caption Stonehenge is aligned to point to the winter solstice sunset

"On 20 or 21 December the sun sets, and it cuts absolutely straight through the stones.

"Winter was the big celebration at Stonehenge.

"People were there 5,000 years ago celebrating the fact that the sun is setting for the last time at the end of the dark nights.

"If they are going to put a tunnel in and it came out where they are exploring at the moment, you're going to have this glow coming off the ground as the sun sets, so it would destroy the whole purpose and meaning of Stonehenge."

In 2014 the government announced it would commit to building a tunnel, removing the A303 from the landscape at the World Heritage Site, and earlier this year a Unesco report backed the idea.

Highways England said the dig was just one part of a wide range of surveys it was undertaking.

'Open minded'

A spokeswoman said: "Since we last met with communities earlier in the year, we have been working hard to make sure we fully understand the benefits and potential impacts of upgrading the A303 past Stonehenge.

"Based on our work so far, a tunnel is our working assumption, but we have to remain open-minded and are still evaluating all options to improve the road."

The proposed options will go out to public consultation early next year.

English Heritage said it was looking forward to seeing more detailed designs and contributing to the consultation but supported the idea of a tunnel "if it is designed and delivered well".

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