PROTESTORS staged a mass trespass at Stonehenge this weekend, to raise their concerns over “harebrained” plans for a two-mile tunnel underneath the world heritage site.
The site was closed to other visitors due to the trespass, but no arrests were made.
Last month the Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps granted permission for the A303 upgrade and the development of the tunnel to go ahead, in addition to an eight-mile dual carriageway.
The green light was given on the basis it would ease congestion, particularly at the bottleneck around Stonehenge, and, in turn, help the local economy.
The long-awaited decision, after more than 30 years of discussions and delays, had been welcomed by English Heritage, campaigners and politicians including Salisbury MP John Glen, but the scheme has received backlash from a number of archaeologists and environmental groups, over fears it would destroy the World Heritage Site.
Others against the scheme including locals, ecologists and climate activists joined the trespass yesterday, December 5.
There was singing, drumming and speeches about the damage they say the £1.7billion road-building plan will cause.
Protestors also attended in support of the Save Stonehenge World Heritage Site group, a new organisation set up by the Stonehenge Alliance which has launched a legal challenge against the Government’s decision.
A fundraiser that was set up earlier this week to cover the legal action reached £25,000 in just two and a half days.
A303 Stonehenge tunnel – Picture: Highways England
English Heritage closed the site to the public due to the protest, but said it was due to reopen today.
In a statement issued last night, a spokesperson for Wiltshire Police confirmed that the event “passed peacefully”.
“A small number of people attended the event and no arrests were made,” the force spokesman said.
“Whilst we are grateful that the protest was peaceful and it quickly dispersed, we do want to remind the public that trespassing on the stones is against the law.
“We along with our partners at English Heritage are keen to help protect this iconic site for many generations to come.”
Dan Hooper, who became known during the 1990s roads protests as “Swampy”, attended the trespass action yesterday afternoon.
He said: “This is the coming together of people who are saying we have had enough. The Stonehenge tunnel is just one scheme in a £27billion roads programme.
“As road transport is the single largest source of carbon emissions in the UK, this is insane. Building more roads simply leads to more traffic and carbon.
“The Government is ignoring the uncomfortable but very real truth that time is running short. Now is a critical time to rethink our connection with nature. We need to put a stop to these road schemes as we did before.”
Indra Donfrancesco, one of the protesters, added: “Stonehenge is a revered place of our ancestors from a time that worshipped nature and is now awakening the spirit of the people to rise, calling us to act to defend our planet for its survival.”
Mass trespass at Stonehenge – Picture from ‘No New Roads’ Twitter
Fieldwork is due to start in late spring next year, with the main five-year construction phase expected to start by 2023.
Another protestor, Simon Bramwell, described the scheme as “harebrained”, adding: “[Around] £2 billion would be better spent elsewhere. We refuse the reckless and constant cancerous expansion for profit that has seen our natural heritage destroyed and our children’s futures threatened.
“We are here to reclaim our heritage. Stonehenge has long been an inspiration to the minds and souls of the British public, inspiring wonder and poetry.
“The origins of our sciences lie in these stones and 5,000 years later its still teaching us and yielding up its mysteries, this tunnel will destroy precious knowledge and taint what is still sacred ground to thousands of people.”