The UN’s heritage body has told ministers that the ancient monument on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, England, is at risk of being put on the “danger list” and stripped of its world heritage status, The Guardian reported.
The warning comes after transport secretary Grant Shapps gave the green light for plans to build a dual carriageway tunnel under the landscape, costing £1.7bn, to go ahead.
Highways England proposed the plans to improve traffic flow along the A303 in Wiltshire, the most direct route for motorists travelling between the South East and South West
Planning Inspectorate officials warned the development could cause “permanent, irreversible harm” to the site.
Campaigners pushed back on the decision, including Senior druid Arthur Uther Pendragon, but the Department for Transport (DfT) said that the benefits of the scheme outweighed the potential harm.
Campaign group Save Stonehenge World Heritage Site (SSWHS) challenged the transport minister’s decision in court.
David Wolfe QC, barrister for SSWHS, said Mr Shapps had “misconstrued the advice of Historic England,” which recommended that development consent should be withheld when he made his decision.
It comes after Liverpool this week became the first UK heritage site to lose its status. The UN’s heritage body said it was removing the city’s historic waterfront from the list – which includes sites such as the Taj Mahal, Venice and the Great Wall of China – because its “outstanding universal value” had been compromised by new and proposed buildings, including Everton football club’s new £500m stadium.
Funding for UK heritage sites, handled by local councils, has been poor in recent years. A 2019 report by World Heritage UK said they received an average of only £5m each from central government between 2013 and 2018.
If plans for the tunnel go ahead, Stonehenge will be placed on the danger list and other UK heritage sites will also be at risk of losing their status due to increased scrutiny.
The UK’s 27 mainland heritage sites received around £19m of funding from the government annually, while the country’s 15 national parks received around £70m, the report said.
The Independent has approached World Heritage UK for a comment.
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