Stonehenge protesters in ‘mass trespass’ to show opposition to £1.7bn tunnel

Protesters have said they are taking part in a "mass trespass" at Stonehenge against the Government's £27 billion roads programme and plans to dig a tunnel near the prehistoric monument.

The group, who described themselves as an alliance of local residents, ecologists, activists, archaeologists and pagans, gathered at the Wiltshire site at about noon on Saturday.

They are protesting against the Government's planned £27.4 billion investment in the strategic road network across the country, as well as a controversial £1.7 billion plan to dig a road tunnel near Stonehenge.

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Grant Shapps' decision to approve the tunnel has been challenged by Save Stonehenge World Heritage Site (Aaron Chown/PA)

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps gave the go-ahead to the scheme in November, against the recommendations of planning officials, who warned it will case harm to the World Heritage Site.

Protesters said they also gathered in support of Save Stonehenge World Heritage Site, which has launched a legal challenge to Mr Shapps' decision.

English Heritage closed the site to the public for the rest of the day after the arrival of the protesters.

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Stonehenge throughout history
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Stonehenge throughout history
Restoration work on Stonehenge. (Photo by Brian Seed/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)
Restoration work on Stonehenge, replacing stones on arches. (Photo by Brian Seed/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)
circa 1911: A Bristol Prier monoplanefrom the Bristol Flying School in low flight over Stonehenge. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
STONEHENGE 1958: A 60 ton crane in use at Stonehenge, Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, to raise a slab of rock weighing 20 tons which is carefully cradled to distribute the weight. The Ministry of Works is restoring one of the trilithons which crashed to earth in 1797. (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
STONEHENGE, Wiltshire. Re-erection of Trilithon lintel 158 by the 60 ton 'Brabazon Crane', the larger of two cranes used to lift stones. The lintel is being lowered and man-handled into its final resting position on upright stones 57 and 58. (Photo by R J C Atkinson/English Heritage/Arcaid/Corbis via Getty Images)
28th March 1958: A sixty ton crane, one of only two of its kind in the country, lifts an eighteen ton lintel of a fallen trilithon at the ancient monument of Stonehenge, on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, England. (Photo by John Franks/Keystone/Getty Images)
One of the massive pieces, No. 91 Station Stone as it is known to the Ministry of Works, is used for anchorage during preparations to straighten some of the trilithons of Stonehenge, the prehistoric monument on Salisbury Plain. (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
circa 1965: Stonehenge in sunshine and shadow against a brilliant blue sky. (Photo by Ernst Haas/Ernst Haas/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 21: Solstice participants wait for the midsummer sun to rise over the megalithic monument of Stonehenge on June 21, 2007 on Salisbury Plain, England. Crowds gathered at the 5,000 year old stone circle to celebrate the Summer Solstice; the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
Stonehenge, Amesbury, Salisbury, Wiltshire, England
Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England, 2 miles (3 km) west of Amesbury and 8 miles (13 km) north of Salisbury. Stonehenge's ring of standing stones are set within earthworks in the middle of the most dense complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in England, including several hundred burial mounds.
Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England, 2 miles (3 km) west of Amesbury and 8 miles (13 km) north of Salisbury. Stonehenge's ring of standing stones are set within earthworks in the middle of the most dense complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in England, including several hundred burial mounds.
Aerial view of Stonehenge, prehistoric monument and stone circle, UNESCO World Heritage Site, United Kingdom.
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Environmental activist Dan Hooper, known as Swampy, said: "This is the coming together of people who are saying we have had enough.

"The Stonehenge tunnel is just one scheme in a £27 billion roads programme.

"As road transport is the single largest source of carbon emissions in the UK, this is insane."

He added: "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."

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Traffic builds up on the A303 near Stonehenge (Andrew Matthews/PA)

The tunnel is part of a £1.7 billion investment in the A303 between Amesbury and Berwick Down.

The A303, which is a popular route for motorists travelling to and from the South West, is often severely congested on the single carriageway stretch near the stones in Wiltshire.

Highways England said its plan for a two-mile tunnel will remove the sight and sound of traffic passing the site, and cut journey times.

But some environmentalists and archaeologists have voiced their opposition to the plan due to its potential impact on the area.

The project is classified as nationally significant, which means a Development Consent Order is needed for it to go ahead.

Simon Bramwell, a pagan, described the site as "hallowed ground" and said the cost of the scheme would "be better spent elsewhere".

"We are here today to reclaim our heritage," Mr Bramwell said.

"Stonehenge has stood for 5,000 years as a testament to the strength, belief and commitment of our people to this land of ours.

"After the sacrifices of the First World War, it was gifted to the British public and we are here today to take it back."

Mr Bramwell said the tunnel will "effectively screen Stonehenge" off from people who cannot afford admission prices.

A spokeswoman for English Heritage said Stonehenge was closed early to the public on Saturday due to the protest but is expected to reopen "as normal" on Sunday.

"It is an offence under the Ancient Monuments Act (1979) for people to enter the monument area without English Heritage's permission," she said.

"Whilst we respect people's right to demonstrate peacefully, we do not condone behaviour that disrupts and endangers the site and the people who visit or work here."

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