Spinal Tap star Harry Shearer has called for the £1.6bn Stonehenge tunnel scheme to be scrapped.
As reported by Ground Engineer’s sister title New Civil Engineer, Shearer – who plays fictitious rock star Derek Smalls in the 1980s spoof documentary This is Spinal Tap – has lodged an official response the Planning Inspectorate’s public consultation on Highways England’s plans to build a 2.9km long twin-bore tunnel through the World Heritage Site.
A scene in the film involves the band performing on stage with a minature version of one of Stonehenge’s neolithic arches.
In his response to the consultation, Shearer said that the “internationally-known monument [is] deserving of more respect” than the proposed A303 road scheme.
Speaking to New Civil Engineer, Shearer – who also voices characters in The Simpsons including Mr Burns, Waylon Smithers and Principal Skinner – added that he has “an emotional connection to the place” after a last-night visit in 2009 following the spoof rock band’s performance at Glastonbury.
“Stonehenge” is also the name of Spinal Tap’s hit single and the cast of the original production even released a seven-minute short film named after the neolithic site in 2009 to mark the film’s 25th anniversary.
“When we were driving back [from Glastonbury], we saw the stones and at first thought it was an imitation of the real site, I couldn’t believe how close it was to the road,” Shearer said. “We went in about seven in the evening as they were closing up and our keyboarder managed to get us in for a private viewing, the sun was just going down it was the most perfect visit.”
He added: “The idea that they could put even more cars next to the site just seems wrong to me. I will be following the outcome and I hope that wiser heads prevail and the scheme is either moved further away from the site or scrapped completely.”
Shearer submitted his official opposition to the scheme after the Stonehenge Alliance alerted him to it through Twitter.
He added that he has “a long fascination” with civil engineering projects, having made two documentaries about the hurricane protection system in New Orleans.
More than 2,000 submissions were officially filed as part of the Planning Inspectorate’s consultation phase with concerns also raised by Historic England, Natural England and Wiltshire Council.
While supporting “the aspirations of the road scheme”, Historic England raised “outstanding concerns” on the project.
These include the lack of a detailed archaeological mitigation strategy, the impact of both the western and eastern portals and the installation of temporary infrastructure during construction.
“We accept the need to improve the road between Amesbury and Berwick Down,” Historic England’s official statement reads. “However if this potential is to be realised in practice we believe it is essential for a number of matters to be addressed satisfactorily.”
In April last year the International Council on Monuments and Sites UK (ICOMOS-UK) described the plans for the A303 Stonehenge tunnel as “severely flawed” and called for the project to be put on hold and re-assessed.
In response to the consultation, a Highways England spokesperson said: “We will be considering all representations submitted by interested parties as we head towards examination.”
A timeline of detailed examination of the application will now be scheduled by the Planning Inspectorate. Examination will take up to six months, with all submitted representations to be considered by Highways England and the Inspectorate during this process.
Following the examination, the Examining Authority has three months to make a recommendation to the Secretary of State, who has a further three months to decide whether the scheme can be built.