News from Council WB9


Peter Stone

At its meeting at the end of WAC-4 Council adopted a number of motions passed by the Plenary Session. The full text of these motions, and the action that WAC is taking is reported on the WAC web pages (see inside front cover). Anyone without access to the web who would like to receive this information should write to their regional representative (listed in this issue) or to Peter Stone at the Central WAC Office (see inside front cover).

STONEHENGE

The Plenary Session passed a motion regarding current proposals for the World Heritage Site of Stonehenge, UK. The motion reads:

We the participants of WAC-4 welcome the concern demonstrated by the UK Government to safeguard the future of Stonehenge World Heritage Site but urge the UK government to reconsider its decision to insert a cut and cover tunnel across the World Heritage site. Particularly we ask that the UK government looks again at the costs of a bored tunnel, taking into account the full potential benefits, economic, social and cultural, and finds funding to build it. This appeal is made in view of the long campaign by English Heritage, the Government’s advisor in archaeological matters, in favour of a bored tunnel. WAC would wish to work with the UK government to make the reassessment possible, and to help the UK government in moving the project forward.

Council asked the Executive to advance this issue as a matter of urgency. The Executive set up a Working Group to report on the issue by April 1999. The Working Group consisted of Dr Julian Thomas, Immediate Past-Secretary of WAC and a specialist in the Neolithic and Bronze Age of southern England, and Professor Robert Layton, who has considerable experience of the World Heritage Convention. Between them, the Working Group consulted widely and met with those at English Heritage responsible for the proposals.

The Working Group reported as follows. The Stonehenge proposals are intended to remove two roads and the present inadequate visitor facilities from the immediate environment of the World Heritage site, returning the area to a grassland free of ‘twentieth century clutter’. The visitor facilities would be closed down and removed to the edge of the World Heritage site. One of the roads would be closed and returned to grassland, while the other would be buried in a 2.5 km cut-and-cover tunnel. It is the cut-and-cover tunnel which is provoking some opposition and concern within the archaeological community, as its construction will drive a huge trench through the centre of the World Heritage site.

The Working Group’s proposals are:

In the light of our deliberations, and in accord with the motion recently passed by the Council of the Prehistoric Society, we submit the following proposals for consideration by the WAC Executive:

We applaud the efforts of English Heritage and the National Trust in attempting to improve visitor access to Stonehenge, in seeking to remove roads from the vicinity of the monument, and in seeking to provide adequate visitor facilities;
We call on the UK government to commission an independent assessment of the cost and benefits of a long-bored tunnel for the A303;
We call on English Heritage to present a full set of drawings and representations of both the cut-and-cover and long-bored tunnels (including their entrances and approach cuttings) to the public, to enable a full and informed debate on the alternatives;
We appeal to English Heritage not to cause irreversible damage to the environs of Stonehenge for the sake of a cheaper solution to the problem of removing surface roads.
The President has written to English Heritage noting the proposals and a press release outlining the WAC position will have been issued before you read this.

KAKADU NATIONAL PARK

The Plenary Session passed a motion regarding current proposals for the World Heritage Site of Kakadu National Park, Australia. The motion reads:

WAC-4 is dismayed by the serious threat posed to the ecosystems, archaeological and rock art sites, and living indigenous culture of the Kakadu National Park by proposed uranium mining at Jabiluka. The Congress notes the Mirrar people are recognised throughout Australian land rights law as the traditional owners of the country on which the mining development is located, and that the Mirrar oppose any additional mining, as at Jabiluka, on their land. WAC-4 calls on the Australian Government to respect the Mirrar people’s status as joint managers of the Kakadu National Park and World Heritage Site. The Congress calls for an immediate halt to preparatory work on the mine, in accordance with the conclusions of the 22nd session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee.

WAC-4 urges immediate remedial action and compensation for the damage already caused. It calls on the UNESCO World Heritage Committee to declare the site as “in danger” if preparation of the Jabiluka mine proceeds.

A press release regarding this motion was issued immediately after WAC-4 and WAC’s CEO has written to the Chairman of the World Heritage Committee and Director of the World Heritage Centre outlining WAC’s position.