Since its unveiling more than two years ago, Highways England’s proposal for the A303 Stonehenge Expressway, in part comprising of a new 3km long tunnel underneath the famous World Heritage-listed site, has generated passionate debate from all sides of the political and social spectrum.
For supporters of the project, it represents a solution to near-constant traffic gridlock and an opportunity to restore ‘a sense of beauty and tranquillity to the ancient landscape’. For detractors, the project could permanently scar the ancient landscape and underlying site archeology, while delivering negligible improvement in tranquillity for the 1.5 million visitors the site receives each year.
So how is Sharps Redmore involved? Sharps Redmore Associate, Clive Bentley explains.
“We heard about the proposal to put a tunnel under the stones a couple of years ago and saw that English Heritage were suggesting that it would improve tranquillity at the site. We contacted the Stonehenge Alliance and offered to scientifically test this claim with my newly-developed Natural Tranquillity method — to which they readily agreed.”
This week’s hearing is considering the Development Consent Order (similar to planning permission for Nationally Important Infrastructure Projects) and hearing evidence from the applicant, Highways England, its experts, the Local Authorities, objectors and any other concerned parties. Ultimately the Secretary of State will decide whether the project is approved to commence in 2021.
Clive appeared as an expert witness on noise and tranquillity on behalf of the Stonehenge Alliance. He gave evidence and answered questions related to his surveys at the site and the likely outcomes on acoustic tranquillity if the Expressway project proceeds.
“The developers claim that removing and rerouting the A303 under the site would significantly improve tranquillity at the Henge, but we found that it would have a negligible impact on reducing overall noise levels. Tranquillity at the Henge is greatly affected by the noise, behaviour and sheer number of visitors each day, rather than traffic adjacent to the site.”
Though this week’s debate centres around a globally-recognised and historically important landmark, for Clive it was also an opportunity to highlight the importance of tranquillity in our outdoor public spaces and the need to preserve it.
“On a macro level, I think this debate is bigger than Stonehenge. It is vitally important because tranquillity is becoming scarcer and we need to protect it. Tranquil spaces are refuges where we can recharge ourselves and have clearly proven benefits for our mental health and wellbeing. Once lost, tranquil spaces outdoors are very difficult to replace.”
Sharps Redmore is proud to be contributing to the deliberations process for one of the UK’s most historically-significant and famous public places. We hope that our evidence will be used to encourage further exploration on the likely impacts on tranquillity at the site and look forward to continuing to contribute to the consultation process.