1.         Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) (C 373bis)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1986

Criteria  (i)(ii)(iii)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger  N/A

Previous Committee Decisions  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/373/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/373/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

2015, 2017, 2018: World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Advisory missions

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/373/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2019

On 1 February 2019, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation, which is available at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/373/documents. The report focuses on responding to Decision 42 COM 7B.32 and reports on the proposed upgrading of the A303 within the property, and progress made in implementing mission recommendations, as follows:

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM

The State Party is pursuing statutory approval processes for the A303 Amesbury to Berwick Down project, including the proposed widening of the A303 within the property, in a timeframe, which allows for Committee Decisions to be conveyed to the relevant authorities. However, previous Committee Decisions and Advisory mission recommendations are not prominently noted in the domestic DCO application processes and readily-accessible public information.

The 2018 joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Advisory mission concluded that the proposed tunnel length was not adequate to protect the OUV of the property. This conclusion is not altered by a 100m addition to the proposed land bridge at the western end. A longer tunnel section, which removes or substantially reduces the proposed dual carriageway within the property, would still be needed in order to avoid the impact on its OUV, including integrity and authenticity.

The DCO documents indicate that a longer tunnel to the west, and covering of the approximately 800m-long cutting, are both technically feasible but are not proceeding because of cost, perceived incremental benefits to OUV, and the approach taken to measuring ‘value for money’. There is also focus on measuring and aggregating impact on individual components of the property, particularly known archaeological features, and justification based on assessing whether the proposal is an improvement, rather than the best available outcome for the OUV of the property.

The State Party’s Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) highlights that the new dual carriageway and tunnel portal in the west would adversely affect the setting of and relationships between monuments and the landscape including, amongst others, the Winterbourne Stoke Crossroads Barrows, the Diamond Group and the Normanton Down Barrows, and wider relationships between Neolithic longbarrows in and beyond these Asset Groups. The HIA also acknowledges that the scheme would introduce a deep cutting and tunnel portal between the Winterbourne Stoke Crossroads Barrows and the Diamond Group, affecting the integrity of physical relationships between the monuments. Indeed, commenting on integrity, the HIA observes that in the areas where the road is not in a tunnel, there would be stretches of new dual carriageway, much of it in cutting; although the extent of these sections of dual carriageway is limited to 800m in the western approach (when the canopy and Green Bridge Four are taken into consideration) and 300m in the eastern approach (when the canopy is taken into consideration). The construction of the cuttings and the portals would require permanent change and would have an adverse impact on the OUV of the World Heritage property. The development of new areas of dual carriageway and portals, particularly in the western approach section, would introduce additional adverse impacts and degrade the integrity of the property.

The current scheme includes design refinements, which address matters such as noise, lighting and general visual appearance. Extending the covered section of the western part of the tunnel and adding a land bridge are improvements, as is the removal of the link between Byways 11 and 12. However, consistent with the findings of the 2018 mission, further substantive changes are required at the western end of the proposed tunnel, noting that the 2018 mission acknowledged that the eastern portal has been optimally sited and designed. It remains preferable that the tunnel itself be extended so that the portal is located completely outside the western boundary. Clearly, this presents technical challenges, but it is possible. The information provided by the State Party costs this change at £540m. If this does not occur, an alternative would be to cover the proposed cutting within the property, which the State Party costs at an extra £126m.

While the design refinements and proposed legacy benefits are welcome, the State Party and its agencies should again be urged to ensure that the best available solution is identified and implemented for the upgrading of the A303.

Decision Adopted: 43 COM 7B.95

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/19/43.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decision 42 COM 7B.32, adopted at its 41st session (Manama, 2018),
  3. Commends the State Party for the design refinements which have occurred to the A303 route Amesbury to Berwick Down upgrading project within the property, including an additional land bridge and longer covered section, as well as the proposed legacy benefits which have been incorporated within the project, and notes the additional investigations and assessments undertaken by the State Party to consider longer tunnel, further land bridge and cut-and-cover options and resulting alternative western portal locations;
  4. Notes with concern, that although the current scheme, which is now subject to the Development Consent Order (DCO) examination process, shows improvement compared with previous plans, it retains substantial exposed dual carriageway sections, particularly those at the western end of the property, which would impact adversely on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, especially its integrity, and therefore encourages the State Party to not proceed with the A303 route upgrade for the section Amesbury to Berwick Down project in its current form;
  5. Urges the State Party to continue to pursue design solutions which reduce further the impact on the cultural landscape and OUV of the property through longer tunnel sections, so that the western portal is located outside the property boundary;
  6. Requests the State Party to ensure that this present World Heritage Committee Decision (43 COM 7B.95) is conveyed to the Planning Inspectorate, to other decision-makers, to known stakeholders and to the wider community through the DCO online exhibition, and that mechanisms are put in place to ensure that the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS International and the World Heritage Committee continue reviewing and assessing the design plans at the appropriate stages of the project, in conformity with the Operational Guidelines;
  7. Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2020, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 44th session in 2020.