Friday, 7 March 2008

The Rollrights are in the firing line again.

From the 24 Hour Museum.
In the wake of the drawn out proposals to divert the main road next to Stonehenge into a tunnel to improve the historic landscape, trustees of an ancient monument in Oxfordshire are set to do battle to prevent a new traffic plan spoiling the site of another stone circle.

The Rollright Stones, which date back about 4,500 years, could have heavy goods vehicles sent thundering down the lane that passes between the stone circle and associated megaliths, if a new traffic management proposal goes ahead.

The proposal is one of several options outlined by West Oxfordshire County Council to deal with air quality in nearby market town Chipping Norton, which mean that alternative routes for traffic are being sought.

A new by-pass has been all but ruled out due to high costs and the time it would take to build, so diversions and widening of existing routes around the town are favoured by the air quality action plan.

The lane would have to be widened under the £4.95m scheme, the Cross Hands Lane Diversion, which is now open for public consultation. It is billed as taking five to seven years to complete, but could be prolonged if scheduled ancient monument consent is needed, which it would indeed, to pass through the stones site. Other proposals being considered would also keep traffic on the edge of the town.

“It’s ironic really when there’s been such effort put into the roads around Stonehenge that this should even be contemplated,” said George Lambrick, Chair of the Rollright Trust.

Traffic is a serious problem in Chipping Norton, where nitrogen dioxide levels from fumes along the busiest thoroughfares are far above the government target of 21 parts per billion.

“It’s a genuine problem,” said George, “but simply moving it from one nice place to another is not the solution.”

“The main thing is concern over air quality, which should be resolved through technology and regulation of emissions.”

However, while residents may complain that stones do not suffer from exhaust fumes, the Rollright Trustees would beg to differ – the stones are home to lichens which could be seriously damaged by increased air pollution.

“We’ve found 59 different species of lichen on the stones, and while dating them may not be perfectly accurate, measurements show that one of them could be the oldest in Britain, going back to 1100AD,” explained George.

Full story here.

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