A303 Stonehenge

The views expressed in this page do not represent those of the Planning Inspectorate. This page consists of content submitted to the Planning Inspectorate by the public and other interested parties, giving their views of this proposal.

A303 Stonehenge

Received 11 January 2019
From University of Buckingham


Blick Mead

A) Background

Blick Mead is of unique archaeological value. Situated on the eastern edge of the Stonehenge World Heritage Site, the area has yielded extraordinary findings from the Mesolithic and other prehistoric periods, including the following.

1) Records of both early post Ice Age human society in the UK (c. 8000 BC) and a place of ‘contact’ between the last hunter gatherers in England and the first farmers from the continent to arrive in Salisbury Plain (c.4000 BC).

2) Evidence for where the hunter gatherer people lived who built the first monuments on the Stonehenge knoll in the 8th and 7th millennia BC, and in situ evidence for hunter gatherers continuing to live there around 4000BC. Twenty radio carbon dates returned from the site span this period, a unique range for North Western Europe. Before Blick Mead there was no evidence for people living in the Stonehenge landscape in the 6th and 5th millennia BC at all. No other Mesolithic site in Great Britain or North Western Europe has provided evidence for people coming back to the same place for over four millennia in the Mesolithic period (understood to range between c. 8500-4000 BC).

3. Blick Mead has also returned Neolithic dates from some of the upper layers of the Mesolithic occupation site which date to the time of the building the Greater Cursus (c. 3600 BC), and rare artefacts which suggests ritual activity was taking place there at the time of the building of Stonehenge Phase 3 (c. 2500 BC). It has been described as a “point of origin” in the landscape at this time (Parker-Pearson, 2016).

4. The uniquely long-term use of the area by Mesolithic hunters could explain why the Stonehenge area became a pivotal focus for the later Neolithic people who built Stonehenge just over the ridge from Blick Mead.

5. Being a Mesolithic and early Neolithic ‘contact’ site around 4000 BC makes Blick Mead especially important, as it potentially provides the link between the Britons who returned to the area just after the last Ice Age through to the first farmers coming to the British Isles in the late 5th millennium BC. Through its chain of radiocarbon dates, Blick Mead has the potential to illuminate the transition from a hunter-gatherer society to one which utilised animal husbandry and farming. This is therefore an archaeological archive without parallel. Additionally, it is changing the paradigm and research agendas for our understanding of the evolution of the Stonehenge landscape.

The site has featured extensively in national and international media.

In 2018 the Blick Mead Project won Current Archaeology’s ‘Research Project of the Year Award’ - [redacted].

A monograph on the excavations at the site 2005-16 was published by Peter Lang in 2018 - [redacted]
B) Risk posed to Blick Mead by Stonehenge Tunnel Scheme –

1) We are concerned that the organic remains at Blick Mead will be lost forever if the water table in which it is preserved is not maintained. This is because the water table keeps organic matter in an oxygenated state preventing decay. A long-term (lasting at least a calendar year), and in depth, measurement and evaluation of the proposal’s impact on the local waterlogged conditions in the Blick Mead spring is urgently required in light of the plan to build an 8m high flyover/’ramp’ c. 5m north of the Blick Mead. The change in drainage systems by the building of the tunnel also need to be accounted for and assessed. The flyover infrastructure will extend along the whole length of the known site and also along the area immediately to the east of the site where peat is known to exist (peat preserves organics).

2) The placement of water meters to gauge the effect the building work will have on the water table in the Blick Mead spring must be related to the archaeologist’s knowledge of where the artefact spreads in the spring area are. At the time of writing this submission, a full assessment programme to gauge the local conditions in the water table at Blick Mead has yet to begin and the archaeologists have not been involved in placing the water meters at all. We fail to understand how the tunnel scheme plans can have already been recommended by Highways, English Heritage, National Trust and Historic England without this work and a full assessment being undertaken.

3) We are concerned that drilling work by a Highways/Aecom team at Blick Mead on December 2nd 2018 has already damaged the only location on the site where aurochs footprints had been found. These prints dated to c. 4000 Cal BC and are nationally important. The Highways/Aecom team drilled a hole 3m deep and 10cm wide through this part of the site and also destroyed part of an internationally important late Mesolithic stone platform whilst doing so. Blick Mead staff were not informed that this drilling was taking place on 2/12/18 and should have been present as per prior agreement. In our view this destruction shows Highways is not operating to the highest standards of communication or duty of care required for a world heritage site. What happened is a breach of article four of the UNESCO convention protecting world heritage sites, which requires member states to do their “utmost” to protect them for future generations.

4) We are concerned that there has not been an appropriate ‘Habitats Regulation Assessment’ at Blick Mead and its environs, see 8.25 of the Highways proposal document. Having reviewed the application documents on line we are unable to find any appropriate assessment under the Habitats Directive. We note that appendix 8.25 to the ES is entitled ‘Habitats Regulations Assessment: Statement to Inform Appropriate Assessment’ and that it relies upon both mitigation and compensation in order to ensure that there is no adverse effect on the integrity of European Sites.

5) In light of the harm to Blick Mead and its environs, as identified, we are concerned that better alternatives to the scheme, which do not have the same negative impacts as the Highways proposal, have not been considered in the consultation process.

David Jacques
Professorial Research Fellow in Archaeology
School of Humanities
The University of Buckingham
Buckingham, MK18 1EG
Email: [redacted]