UK approves Stonehenge tunnel, diverted to ease druid dismay

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FILE - In this Sunday, June 21, 2015 file photo, the sun rises as thousands of revellers gather at the ancient stone circle Stonehenge to celebrate the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, near Salisbury, England. British authorities have approved a contentious road tunnel under Stonehenge _ but have altered its route so it doesn't impede views of the sun during the winter solstice, it was reported on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland, File)

LONDON (AP) British authorities on Tuesday approved plans for a contentious and long-delayed road tunnel under the site of Stonehenge but altered its route so it won't impede views of the sun during the winter solstice.

The government said the 1.8-mile (2.9-kilometer) tunnel will bury a frequently gridlocked road that now runs past the prehistoric monument in southwest England.

The tunnel will "reconnect the two halves of the 6,500 acre (2,600 hectare) World Heritage site which is currently split by the road, and remove the sight and sound of traffic from the Stonehenge landscape," Britain's Department for Transport said.

It said the revised route will be 50 yards (meters) further from the giant stone circle than previously proposed "to avoid conflicting with the solstice alignment."

But critics say the tunnel will disturb a rich archaeological site. Tony Robinson, host of the TV archaeology show "Time Team," accused the government of "driving a thousand coaches and horses through the World Heritage Site."

University of Buckingham archaeologist David Jacques said "the Stonehenge landscape is unutterably precious and you tamper with it at your peril."

Conservationists, including the United Nations heritage body UNESCO, say diverting the road with a bypass would be a less disruptive option.

Stonehenge, built between 3000 B.C. and 1600 B.C. for reasons that remain mysterious, is one of Britain's most popular tourist attractions. It's also a spiritual home for thousands of druids and mystics who visit at the summer and winter solstices.

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