Hostname: page-component-77c89778f8-7drxs Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-07-24T00:13:56.583Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

World Heritage Sites and the question of scale in governance and politics: A study of Stonehenge

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 October 2023

Philip Boland*
School of Natural and Built Environment, Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Thomas Hastings
Queen’s Business School, Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast, Northern Ireland
M. Satish Kumar
School of Natural and Built Environment, Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Stephen McKay
School of Natural and Built Environment, Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Corresponding author: Philip Boland; Email:
Rights & Permissions [Opens in a new window]


In July 2021, Liverpool was removed from the prestigious List of World Heritage Sites, sending shockwaves around the global heritage community. More recently, the spotlight has shifted to another world famous site also located in the United Kingdom. During the same 44th Session of the World Heritage Committee, UNESCO threatened to place Stonehenge on the List in Danger if the required changes to a significant billion-pound road enhancement project were not implemented. Given what happened in Liverpool, there are fears that Stonehenge is in danger of moving towards delisting. An interesting critical line of inquiry to emerge from Liverpool, and other World Heritage Sites, concerns the local, national, and international ‘politics at the site’. This article develops this debate by analysing the role of different scalar actors involved in the Stonehenge World Heritage Site. More specifically, our article examines how the Stonehenge Alliance sought to engage in, what we define as, scalar manoeuvres that is evidenced by scale jumping and scalar alignments with more powerful players further up the heritage hierarchy in order to effect leverage over the future status of the World Heritage Site.

Creative Commons
Creative Common License - CCCreative Common License - BY
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
© The Author(s), 2023. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the International Cultural Property Society


November 2022 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) World Heritage Convention.Footnote 1 In a recent issue of this journal, leading authors reflect on the socio-political context of this flagship initiative.Footnote 2 Adopting the same line of careful reflection, we analyze the current controversy surrounding the Stonehenge World Heritage Site (WHS) in England, United Kingdom, by focusing on the question of scale in the governance and politics of this cultural property. Another important temporal factor informing this article is that, in July 2021, Liverpool became the first UNESCO WHS to be delisted in the United Kingdom; as noted by another set of key commentators, “deletion now presents as the ultimate potential sanction.”Footnote 3 The decision to remove Liverpool – an alleged “miscarriage of justice”Footnote 4 – shows a rarely seen side to UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee (WHC). One interpretation is that it indicates an exception to the dominant trope that the WHC is subjected to, and conditioned by, the strong political and diplomatic forces of European governments. In so doing, it reveals a willingness to take decisive action against recalcitrant state parties that ignore, or do not closely follow, its recommendations on the impact of major planning projects affecting the Outstanding Universal Value of WHS properties. Moreover, “the decision to remove World Heritage Status on the basis of how heritage is managed appears to shift UNESCO’s focus to a management-monitoring function, rather like blue flag status for beaches.”Footnote 5

Following Liverpool’s delisting, the spotlight shifted to another world famous site. At the same meeting in Fuzhou, China, the WHC threatened to place Stonehenge on the List in Danger if the required changes to a controversial billion-pound road enhancement project were not implemented.Footnote 6 In the context of a final decision on Stonehenge’s WHS status in September of this year (when the forty-fifth session of the WHC takes place), the following article considers the role of different stakeholders in contesting a major planning proposal around Stonehenge in light of the controversial delisting of Liverpool. An interesting critical line of inquiry to emerge from studies of WHSs concerns the local, national, and international “politics at the site,”Footnote 7 which we explore more fully in this article: “[W]hether states respond to ‘the shame’ of an In Danger listing is likely … to turn largely on the nature of the local politics at that particular site. In the case of the delisting of the DresdenFootnote 8 Elbe Valley (Germany), for example, local communities protested against UNESCO oversight. Even the threat of inclusion on the IDL [In Danger List] was insufficient to stop the development by the local government.”Footnote 9

We are appreciative of the politics of the local sites in which WHSs are based – and the multiple political attributes, ideologies, and resources that infuse these sites – as echoed in our recent work on the delisting of Liverpool.Footnote 10 This article further develops the literature on WHSs by analyzing the strategic engagement of actors at different scalar resolutions relevant to the Stonehenge WHS. More specifically, our attention focuses on one local stakeholder that was formed in 2001 in opposition to the Highways Agency’s initial proposals to widen the A303 road that runs along Stonehenge. As a non-profit organization consisting of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and individuals, the Stonehenge Alliance relies on donations from campaign supporters and volunteer activists. According to its website, the pressure group is active in lobbying various tiers of government, challenging Highways England, collaborating with the National Trust, engaging with like-minded campaigners in countries around the world, and raising funds for the Save Stonehenge WHS legal challenge in the High Court (more on this later). The ultimate objective of the Stonehenge Alliance is to “raise awareness” about the implications of ignoring UNESCO’s advice regarding the latest A303 road proposals and the concomitant danger of losing WHS status. Moreover, the Stonehenge Alliance is a member of World Heritage Watch. An international NGO that supports UNESCO in obtaining information on what is happening in WHSs around the world, they also assist local people in protecting their properties and, more generally, make the public aware of threats to the “common heritage of humanity.”Footnote 11

This article examines how the Stonehenge Alliance engaged in multiple scalar maneuvers evidenced by an agility and competency to jump scale, upscale, and achieve scalar alignment with more powerful players further up the governance hierarchy to effect political leverage over the future status of the WHS. In our discussion, we suggest that the “politics at the site” is key to the development of these tactics. We also consider the implications of Liverpool’s delisting on the outcome of these tactics. The article ends with a discussion of the implications for policy and practice and the pragmatic lessons that Stonehenge offers for other cultural properties around the world that are involved in niggly negotiations with UNESCO and face the prospect of being placed on the List in Danger.


The methodology for this article draws exclusively upon secondary sources. The first stage of the research process connected with the academic – theoretical – literature on the governance of UNESCO, the politics surrounding its decision-making processes, and the controversies regarding WHS designation, the List in Danger, and delisting. As the WHS literature is diverse, we consulted articles from a range of disciplines – including several published in this journal – that examined the experiences of WHSs from around the world. Given the UK focus of this article, and the global media story that followed its delisting, Liverpool was a useful case study that helped to contextualize what is happening in Stonehenge and, more importantly, what might happen in the future for this iconic cultural property. We gained interesting insights into the issues in Liverpool prior to and post delisting. Another important set of writing that we consulted concerns debates on geographical scale, its application to heritage studies, and, more specifically for this article, its applicability to WHSs. This provided the core conceptual framing for the article.

Moving beyond academic work, the next stage of the research process involved a detailed desk study of grey literature. Adopting a thematic and discourse analysis approach we analyzed reports, strategies, plans, minutes of meetings, press coverage, websites, and blogs from international and national organizations, regional and local stakeholders, and other involved parties. Some of this covered relatively recent historical issues, but most of it related to more contemporaneous events concerning the new road proposal for the A303. In total, our analysis drew upon thirty sources of information. We reviewed key policy and development documents for Stonehenge and the County of Wiltshire (the regional jurisdiction within which Stonehenge sits). This was supplemented by studies of Stonehenge, plus national media coverage and local reactions in Wiltshire through websites relating to the A303 planning proposal and its implications for the site. A valuable source of secondary data was the UNESCO website.Footnote 12 Here we accessed the minutes of WHC meetings, reports on properties on the WHS List in Danger, and, crucially, Monitoring Mission reports on Stonehenge. Finally, we made extensive use of the Stonehenge Alliance websiteFootnote 13 to access various documents, reports, statements, and blogs relating to the actions they have undertaken in response to the new road proposal as well as their social media accounts.Footnote 14

Theoretical framework: the scalar politics of WHSs

WHSs are a celebrated UNESCO initiative designed to protect the Outstanding Universal Value of the world’s heritage assets.Footnote 15 In terms of geographical reach, WHSs “are found all over the globe, and they cover all periods and numerous types of monuments, buildings, locations, and landscapes.”Footnote 16 Due to their international brand status, WHSs are highly prized and are promoted by local and national stakeholders as destinations for global tourism and inward investment.Footnote 17 This is an example of what has previously been called the “economic uses” of heritage,Footnote 18 and, more contemporaneously, it is particularly evident in the elevation of “economic value” in heritage planning.Footnote 19 In a UK context, WHSs are viewed as “a remarkable opportunity – a sleeping giant of cultural and economic potential.”Footnote 20 Connecting to broader debates, WHSs are regarded as engines of economic growth,Footnote 21 and they are increasingly attached to the hegemonic logics of neoliberal urbanism and city competitiveness.Footnote 22

Over time, various debates have emerged over WHSs. Most prominently, these include the tension between heritage conservation and economic growth,Footnote 23 the politics surrounding WHS designation processes, and the legitimacy and geographical composition of the WHS list.Footnote 24 Reflecting upon the latter, the focus is on how “World Heritage sites are managed” and the “controversies about the acceptability of spatial developments in World Heritage sites that threaten the Outstanding Universal Value of these sites.”Footnote 25 Leading to our discussion, attention is directed to evidence of “intensified politics … [the] inscription and the protection and management system … have typically been the most contentious.”Footnote 26 A recent article in this journal discusses the politics surrounding our area of interest – the WHS List in Danger and the processes leading to delisting.Footnote 27 On this, our own work contributes to recent examinations of the “politics at the site” and the contentious delisting of Liverpool’s WHS.Footnote 28

As with the WHS designation process, the List in Danger is equally intriguing. There are currently 52 properties “in Danger in accordance with Article 11(4) of the Convention.”Footnote 29 Of direct relevance to Stonehenge, and Liverpool previously, are the “serious and specific dangers” relating to “large-scale public or private projects or rapid urban or tourist development projects.”Footnote 30 An important point to make here is that inscription on the List in Danger, in theory, should reflect the “most imperiled” sites.Footnote 31 However, this is not always the case, and inscription on the List in Danger rarely results in delisting.Footnote 32 Moreover, properties that are considered for inscription on the List in Danger are subject to the same state party high and low politics that affect the designation process. State diplomats and other representatives engage in “aggressive lobbying” and “political manipulation” to affect leverage over which sites are included on the List in Danger, notably using “bargaining power” to ensure their own sites are not inscripted.Footnote 33 For example, it is noted that properties within European countries – such as the United Kingdom – and America “enjoy impunity” by “escaping sanction” of inclusion on the List in Danger or, alternatively, endure lengthy periods of inclusion on the list without suffering the abasement of delisting.Footnote 34

It is important to note that Dresden and Liverpool are obvious exceptions to this European impunity.Footnote 35 Moreover, these cases reveal how “the deletion procedure has been more closely linked with the practice of Reactive Monitoring and the IDL [In Danger List].”Footnote 36 An interesting line of investigation that can be used to unpack the List in Danger concerns the relationships between international, national, and local stakeholders involved in the different layers of governance affecting the future of WHS properties. This takes us into the next section addressing debates on a geographical scale.

Scale jumping and scalar maneuvering

Over two decades ago, academics highlighted the “increasing prominence of scalar concepts.”Footnote 37 This reflected growing exchanges between authors from different disciplines who ruminated on the epistemological and ontological status of scale. Amongst the key contributors were geographers, sociologists, and planners.Footnote 38 Empirically and theoretically, scale is a heuristic device for understanding social, political, and economic events, structures and processes at various spatial hierarchies.Footnote 39 Initially, the debate focused on scale as fixed into “bounded territorial units” or “periodically transformed” – that is, constructed through social struggle – into “nested,” “ladder-like,” “jostling” hierarchies.Footnote 40 Developing the theorization, others advocated the relational and unboundable nature of scale due to the “mutual constitution” of the local and the global.Footnote 41 Danny MacKinnon’s reappraisal of these scalar debates, notably synthesizing the political-economic and post-structural theoretical traditions, offers useful insights for this study: “I propose to replace the politics of scale with the concept of ‘scalar politics’, arguing that it is often not scale per se that is the prime object of contestation between social actors, but rather specific processes and institutionalized practices that are themselves differentially scaled. … The concept of scalar politics focuses attention on the strategic deployment of scale by various actors, movements and organizations.”Footnote 42

Spurred by this body of theory, and earlier work by Brian Graham, Greg Ashworth, and John Tunbridge,Footnote 43 cultural heritage scholars entered the scalar stage.Footnote 44 Their efforts helped to develop debates on the relationship between scale and politics through researching the heritage-scale relationship. The first point to make is that scalar politics is important to heritage studies, in general, and to UNESCO WHSs, in particular.Footnote 45 For example, authors argue that we should “consider the important questions of scale … something which permeates a number of [WHS] cases.”Footnote 46 It is also claimed that the different scales of heritage construction and management are often heavily politicized.Footnote 47 Drawing upon this work, “heritage seems to matter more in both governmental and economic concerns at a variety of scales”Footnote 48 – that is, local place making, national values, and UNESCO’s universalism. An important point is that “scale itself is a potent source of heritage dissonance. Heritage developed at different levels may not be complementary and harmonious.”Footnote 49 Moreover, when considering the hierarchical dimensions of heritage, it is important to be cognizant of the “capacity for conflict” – for example, how the actions of certain stakeholders disrupted the hierarchies of scale over the WHS designation of the Ningaloo Coast in Australia.Footnote 50

Tuuli Lähdesmäki, Yujie Zhu, and Suzie Thomas offer valuable insights into scalar relations and the production and meaning of heritage.Footnote 51 The first point is that inscription on the WHS list “gives a site significance at different scales.”Footnote 52 Second, returning to the important issue raised above, processes of heritage are “inherently political” due to “uneven power relations” and “hierarchical power structures.” This leads academic attention to the conflict concerning the meaning, ownership, preservation, and management of heritage. On this, analysis focuses on “the power struggles during the processes of production, reconfiguration and contestation within and amongst scales of heritage.”Footnote 53 In the spirit of this focus on scale in the politics and governance of heritage, our study focuses on the scalar politics at play at Stonehenge WHS. We place emphasis on the agency of a key local stakeholder and their efforts to leverage support and action from higher-scaled institutional actors at the national (UK High Court) and international (UNESCO WHC) levels. Linking the heritage-scale relationship to this study, we direct our focus to “how scale and heritage work together.”Footnote 54 More specifically, our interest lies in relatively underexplored work on heritage actors’ ability to shift scale, jump scale, upscale, and downscale.Footnote 55

Scale jumping is defined as “the ability of certain social groups and organizations to move to higher levels of activity – for example, the urban to the national – in pursuit of their interests.”Footnote 56 The concept was originally coined by Neil Smith in his study of homeless survival strategies – that is, the use of supermarket trolleys – in New York.Footnote 57 Krzysztof Wodiczko’s artistic representations of the Homeless Vehicle and the Poliscar Footnote 58 “enable[d] evicted people to ‘jump scales’ – to organize the production and reproduction of daily life and to resist oppression and exploitation at a higher scale.”Footnote 59 Another elucidation of scale jumping and upscaling concerns water politics in Spain.Footnote 60 Accession to the European Economic Community in 1986 created a new scalar fix: “[T]he rescaling of authority ‘down’ to local and regional actors, on the one hand, and ‘up’ to international institutions.”Footnote 61 That “hydro-territorial configurations … [became] sites of political contestation” is relevant to this study.Footnote 62 More recently, a study of the Chinese city of Lijiang reveals “how local struggles emerge to negotiate with heritage authorities through jumping among scales.”Footnote 63 In terms of WHS research, there is a need to develop our understanding of jumping scales – in particular, how local actors attempt to “re-scale an issue,” upscale, and/ or downscale in pursuance of their own interests.Footnote 64

This literature can be connected to emergent research on the local, national, and international “politics at the site.”Footnote 65 While local-national governance relations are obviously significant, it is equally important to consider the local-national-international context of WHSs and the actions of, and interrelationships between, local organizations, state parties, and supranational institutions. For this study, a multi-scalar analysis of cultural heritage politics in Germany and the United Kingdom attaches importance to scalar linkages/alignments between different actors that populate the heritage hierarchy: “When the World Heritage Committee places a site on the World Heritage in Danger list, this might, for instance, undermine the linkage between UNESCO and the respective national or local government. At the same time such a decision can strengthen other alignments within the regime, for example between UNESCO and local interest groups.”Footnote 66

Synthesizing and developing these approaches, we advance in the next section our focus on scalar maneuvering. More specifically, we analyze the Stonehenge Alliance’s agility and actions at different spatial resolutions that were designed to exert influence over the “political contestation” concerning a major road project linked to the Stonehenge WHS.Footnote 67 Moreover, we interrogate how their engagement in scale jumpingFootnote 68 and scalar alignment,Footnote 69 with more powerful national and supranational institutions, was “strategically deployed”Footnote 70 to affect leverage over the future status of this world famous site.

Planning for the Stonehenge WHS: scalar maneuvering

Recent studies reveal how major planning and regeneration interventions cost Liverpool its WHS in 2021.Footnote 71 Stonehenge, Avebury, and Associated Sites (to give the WHS its full name) has the potential to follow Liverpool.Footnote 72 Located in Wiltshire in Southwest England, the WHS was inscribed in 1986 after satisfying three of UNESCO’s ten key criteria for WHS eligibility.Footnote 73 The most famous part of the site is situated in south Wiltshire, covering 26 square kilometers and is centered on the prehistoric monument of Stonehenge (see Figure 1). Ownership is shared between key national and local stakeholders (that is, English Heritage, National Trust, Ministry of Defence, and Wiltshire Council) and smaller private interests (for example, landowners and farmers). The lesser well-known part of the WHS is Avebury, located 17 miles north of Stonehenge, covering 22.5 square kilometers and is centered on the prehistoric Avebury Henge. In combination, the WHS contains the world-renowned monuments located at Stonehenge and concentrations of equally exceptional archaeological artifacts at Avebury dating back thousands of years.

Figure 1. Stonehenge (courtesy of [1st May 2023]).

Thus, as in Liverpool, the WHS is a significant heritage asset for national and international tourism, with Stonehenge attracting over a million visitors each year.Footnote 74 Given this, Stonehenge is one of the country’s “most visited destinations or ‘icons’.”Footnote 75 Additionally, Wiltshire’s Community Plan states that the WHS “landscape is of national and global significance.”Footnote 76 Finally, the UNESCO website captures the international significance of the WHS: “Stonehenge and Avebury, in Wiltshire, are among the most famous groups of megaliths in the world. The two sanctuaries consist of circles of menhirs arranged in a pattern whose astronomical significance is still being explored. These holy places and the nearby Neolithic sites are an incomparable testimony to prehistoric times.”Footnote 77

Politics at the site: scale jumping and scalar alignment

The long-standing planning problem for the WHS property is that unsustainable car use in and around Stonehenge has become an “intractable issue.”Footnote 78 The A303 road is a popular commuter belt for travelers heading between the southwest and southeast of England. This, and the global tourist attraction that is Stonehenge, has led to heavy congestion and rat running surrounding the WHS.Footnote 79 Today, traffic levels are twice the design capacity for the road.Footnote 80 Given this, the UK state party acknowledges that the A303 “has become of increasing concern … traffic flows [have] … increased the adverse impact on the integrity of the site.”Footnote 81 It is labelled as “Britain’s most picturesque traffic jam … which passes 200 yards from England’s – and possibly the world’s – most famous prehistoric monument.”Footnote 82 Since the 1990s, a number of infrastructure initiatives were proposed (over fifty) to ameliorate these traffic issues, but they either never received full planning permission, political support, or the required funding and so were not implemented.Footnote 83

The main priority for the local authority and other responsible stakeholders, as in Liverpool, is protecting the Outstanding Universal Value of the property against inappropriate development. As such, “[t]he council will … continue to work with partners to ensure that any future improvements to the A303 do not compromise this important World Heritage Site.”Footnote 84 However, the inability to find a viable and agreed solution to this major planning problem has become highly politicized. Connecting to extant debates on the local “politics at the site,”Footnote 85 reference is made to increasing “frustration for local residents, particularly as a number of schemes have been proposed and withdrawn over many years.”Footnote 86

The World Heritage Site Management Plan provides a long-term strategy to protect the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV).Footnote 87 It has been endorsed by Wiltshire Council as a material consideration in determining planning applications affecting the WHS. The key objectives are to manage the level of international and domestic tourists visiting the site (that is, traffic congestion and negative impacts of road use) and to enhance the tourist experience (that is, a new visitor center). Interestingly, running contrary to a point raised earlier, there are claims that the economic impact of mass tourism has not been maximized. According to the Council’s Core Strategy, which is the local planning document guiding future development, “there is a lack of capital made on this unique opportunity locally. There is little evidence of the attraction having any real economic benefit for Amesbury or the surrounding villages.”Footnote 88 The problem is the ephemeral nature of tourist visitation – that is, the predominance of day visitors and the lack of overnight stays and spend in the local economy.

Within Wiltshire’s Core Strategy, Policy 59 is directly focused on the WHS. Recognizing the international and national significance of this heritage asset, the council is “obliged to protect, conserve, present and transmit to future generations its WHS.”Footnote 89 Importantly, this obligation must be given priority when determining planning decisions and development management issues within the property. In particular, managing the competing demands of tourism and protecting the OUV of the WHS. As such, “the World Heritage Site … requires protection as inappropriate development … can have an adverse impact on the site and its attributes of OUV.”Footnote 90 However, connecting to the literature, planning proposals for road improvements have politicized the WHS property.

Recent plans involve a two-mile bored tunnel and four-lane dual carriageway along the A303 that is designed to ease traffic congestion and associated noise impacts near Stonehenge. As the UK state party has explained, it “would remove most of the A303 within the WHS from view.”Footnote 91 Although some form of tunnel had been suggested in the past, this version attracted strong local and – as we will see later – international opposition. The extent of the local “politics at the site” was epitomized by calls for Stonehenge to be placed on UNESCO’s WHS List in Danger. For example, back in 2018, Kate Fielden, who is honorary secretary to the Stonehenge Alliance, felt this radical course of action was the only available option to prevent deleterious damage to the property. Connecting back to theory, this is the first instance of Smith’s scale jumping. This is evidenced by local activists seeking movement to a “higher level of activity” in order to “pursue their interests”Footnote 92 by requesting intervention from a powerful international organization – that is, an attempt at scalar alignmentFootnote 93 to deal with a local-national issue. Referencing the plans for the A303 tunnel and road improvements, and a future report from UNESCO, Kate Fielden stated: “Should the UK Government [national] continue to press ahead with the A303 ‘preferred route’, we [local] hope that the Mission [supranational] will be minded to recommend to the 2018 meeting of the WH Committee [supranational] that the WHS should be placed on the List of WH in Danger. Such an action might help to achieve a better outcome for the WHS and its proper enjoyment by future generations.”Footnote 94

Figure 2. Plans for the A303 near Stonehenge (courtesy of Daily Mail via Google Images).

Figure 3. Plans for the A303 near Stonehenge (courtesy of Somerset Live via Google Images).

Figure 4. Plans for the A303 near Stonehenge (courtesy of The Times via Google Images).

Here, we notice how the Stonehenge Alliance elevates the local “politics at the site” over the road proposal to a higher placed organization within the heritage hierarchy and invites the WHC to place Stonehenge on the List in Danger. Ultimately, this attempt at scalar alignment is intended to affect political leverage over the UK Government. This is illustrative of scale jumping through an attempt to shift influence over a local issue to the supranational scale. Moreover, aligning itself with a more powerful scalar player, the Stonehenge Alliance was inviting a severe sanction for this cultural property to serve its own ends – that is, halting the A303 road proposals. Notwithstanding this local and supranational pressure, in November 2020, Grant Shapps, then Secretary of State for Transport, granted a Development Consent Order for the A303 proposal (see Figures 2, 3 and 4). The £1.7 billion upgrade to the A303 between Amesbury and Berwick Down is part of a broader £27 billion national road network improvement package that is financed by the UK Government.Footnote 95 The Stonehenge Alliance claim costs have now escalated to £2.5 billion and “are only likely to soar with current inflation.”Footnote 96 Connecting back to debates in the literature on the interface between heritage and economy, Robert Witcher explains: “In addition to relieving traffic congestion and reducing journey times, Highways England identifies a number of environmental, community and cultural heritage benefits. The scheme promises ‘green bridges’ to allow people and wildlife to cross over the unburied sections of road, the restoration of chalk downland and the creation of jobs and economic growth.”Footnote 97

In contrast to the above text, however, recent “research shows that road schemes … show little evidence of economic benefit to local economies.”Footnote 98 Nevertheless, based on these anticipated economic benefits, it is striking that the Transport Secretary overruled a recommendation from five planning experts that the proposed project should not proceed in its current form as it would cause “permanent, irreversible harm” to the WHS.Footnote 99 Similarly, a UNESCO / International Council on Monuments and Sites’s Advisory Mission in 2018 had expressed serious concerns over the impact of the proposals on the property: “The tunnel would remove the road from the central part of the Stonehenge component of the WHS but the construction of four-lane highways in cuttings at either end of the tunnel would adversely and irreversibly impact on the integrity, authenticity and Outstanding Universal Value of the WHS, particularly through disrupting the spatial and visual links between monuments, and as a result of its overall visual impact.”Footnote 100

The Mission therefore argued that the proposed scheme “should not proceed in its current form.”Footnote 101 Instead, it called for a longer tunnel to protect the OUV of the property, and that surface routes for the new dual carriageway should be reconsidered outside the WHS. The same concerns were reemphasized during the forty-third and forty-fourth sessions of the WHC.Footnote 102 In response, the UK state party has consistently claimed that a longer bored tunnel “would not secure sufficient additional benefits to justify the additional costs.”Footnote 103 UNESCO adopts a rather different view – that is, not based on a cost-benefit analysis – whereby it “considers that the appropriate ‘test’ is not whether there is a net benefit to OUV, but rather how adverse impact on OUV can be avoided.”Footnote 104 Additionally, the Stonehenge Alliance allege that the methodology underpinning the cost-benefit analysis was fundamentally flawed and therefore ought to be “treated with caution.”Footnote 105 Connecting to the literature, the decision to ignore both UNESCO and professional planners intensified the “politics at the site.” One aspect was evidenced by local expressions of anger and frustration amongst politicians, archaeologists, environmentalists, historians, and DruidsFootnote 106 for whom Stonehenge is a sacred site.Footnote 107

In our view, Shapps’s decision stimulated the Stonehenge Alliance into pragmatic scalar maneuvering, akin to a scalar gymnastics. First, at a local level, it launched its Save Stonehenge World Heritage Site campaign, notably amassing some 137,000 objections to the proposals. It then vaulted to the international scale. In the quote below, once again, there were calls for the WHC to place Stonehenge on the WHS List in Danger. Connecting to the literature, this is evidence of how the Stonehenge Alliance upscaledFootnote 108 the “politically contested” road proposals.Footnote 109 Moreover, it reveals how they “strategically deployed”Footnote 110 the international scale through a second attempt at scalar alignmentFootnote 111 with a more powerful organization higher up the heritage hierarchy to affect the decision-making over the future status of the WHS: “We believe that such an about-turn might be achieved, were the World Heritage Committee to place Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites on the List of World Heritage in Danger. We respectfully request that this option might be considered at the 44th Committee meeting. International condemnation would send shock waves to the UK heritage sector and perhaps persuade the UK Government to listen to UNESCO.Footnote 112

However, a drastic call such as this requires a closer reading of what actually happened in Liverpool after it was placed on the List in Danger in 2012. In the case of Liverpool, this shift did not have the desired effect for UNESCO because an extensive and expensive urban development project – Liverpool Waters – still managed to secure planning permission from the local authority. This, and plans for a new football stadium on the waterfront, ultimately resulted in Liverpool being delisted as a WHS.Footnote 113 Therefore, the lesson from Liverpool,Footnote 114 and Dresden,Footnote 115 is that placement on the List in Danger, and the associated attempt at “naming and shaming,”Footnote 116 does not guarantee delivery of the desired outcome for those who initiate inscription on the List in Danger. Clearly, there is a similarity between Liverpool and Stonehenge in that “the perceived impact of some new major development proposals has been controversial and [wa]s scrutinized by UNESCO, with UNESCO Missions visiting and reporting on Sites including … Stonehenge and Avebury … [and] Liverpool.”Footnote 117 However, there is an important difference between Liverpool and Stonehenge. In the former, the source of contestation involved very different views over a major regeneration project between Liverpool City Council and UNESCO. In contradistinction, in the latter case, the tension over a major regeneration project involves local stakeholders and the UK Government, with UNESCO seen locally as a potential – international – scalar savior for the site’s authenticity, integrity, and OUV. Additionally, it is noticeable that the Conservative-dominated Wiltshire Council supported the UK Government’s proposal.Footnote 118

Drawing upon support from around the world and public donations, the Stonehenge Alliance was able to fund a legal challenge against the Secretary of State’s ruling.Footnote 119 This is further evidence of scalar maneuvering. This time, successfully downscaling the contentious road proposals from the international scale to the national legal system. On 30 July 2021, concluding a judicial review at the High Court in London,Footnote 120 Justice Holgate quashed the Development Consent Order granted by the Transport Secretary for the A303 road project.Footnote 121 The judge ruled that Shapps had acted “irrationally and unlawfully” when he approved the project because he failed to consider alternative schemes as required by law;Footnote 122 the judge also found that the decision-making process failed to include evidence of the impact on each individual asset located at the WHS property.Footnote 123 As such, the judge upheld two of the five grounds that had been submitted to the court. Notwithstanding the legal setback, the UK state party maintained “its view that rather than being a potential threat to the property, the scheme is capable of delivering significant enhancements for the WHS, its characteristics, and importantly, its integrity.”Footnote 124 Given this, Stonehenge ought not to be placed on the List in Danger.

Reflecting on these statements reveals a conflict between the local and national scales of heritage. At the local scale, the Stonehenge Alliance was advocating that the property should be placed on the List in Danger to protect its OUV; in so doing, upscaling contentions over road proposals to the supranational scale through an appeal to the more powerful WHC. While at the national scale, the UK state party was strongly resistant to such action, arguing that sufficient safeguards were in place to protect the integrity of the property should the proposed renovation to the A303 receive renewed Development Consent and proceed as planned. Interestingly, despite Wiltshire being a politically strong Conservative heartland, the case of Stonehenge reveals a schism between the local and national levels over the future of this major regeneration project. In this instance, it places local activists in alliance with an international organization – that is, scale jumping and scalar alignment, pitting both of them against the national and local government (both Conservative); the National Trust, which own 800 hectares of land surrounding Stonehenge; and English Heritage, which runs the site.Footnote 125 Clearly, this is a very different situation to that what transpired in Liverpool.

Although the legal challenge was an incredible victory for local campaigners, it left the road plans for Stonehenge unresolved. Immediately after the court ruling, the Department for Transport expressed its disappointment with the decision claiming the existing plans remained the best option for the WHS.Footnote 126 The Department of Transport and National HighwaysFootnote 127 then entered into discussions about how to amend the project and proceed with the next stage of the redetermination process.Footnote 128 The Department for Transport began mulling over whether it should appeal the court decision. At the time, it was reported that National Highways were to go ahead with securing contracts for the procurement work of digging the tunnel.Footnote 129 Additionally, the UK state party stated that, should an appeal be successful and Development Consent be granted for a second time, it was capable of delivering the required changes to the road infrastructure without compromising the OUV of the WHS property.Footnote 130

In June 2022, the forty-fifth session of UNESCO’s WHC was due to meet in the Russian city of Kazan. However, the invasion of Ukraine led to intense pressure from global cultural organizations, and the meeting was subsequently postponed indefinitely.Footnote 131 The WHC is now scheduled to meet in September 2023 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia,Footnote 132 when a decision as to whether Stonehenge will be placed on the WHS List in Danger could be made. At the time of finalizing this article (15 July 2023), the UK Government had announced, for the second time, that Development Consent had been granted – with minor modifications – for the A303 road project.Footnote 133 The Stonehenge Alliance stated that it was “extremely disappointed” by the decision and warned that approving the project could lead to Stonehenge losing WHS status.Footnote 134 Of note, Wiltshire Council reaffirmed its backing for the scheme indicating a scalar alignmentFootnote 135 between the Conservative national government and the Conservative local government on the economic and archaeological merits of the project. Councilor Caroline Thomas, cabinet member for transport, explained:

We’re delighted that consent has been granted once again for the A303 Stonehenge project and it can now move forward. This huge infrastructure project represents a significant investment in Wiltshire that will boost the economy of both our county and the wider region, unlocking jobs and investment. Along with the construction, there will also be comprehensive programme of archaeological mitigation, which will enhance our understanding of the World Heritage Site.Footnote 136

In response, Kate Fielden of the Stonehenge Alliance, made the announcement that the organization was seeking legal advice on the Government’s decision before deciding on their next steps. She opined: “We are shocked that the Government is prepared to implement a £2.5 billion road scheme when the country is in dire need of expenditure on far more important things. UNESCO, the UN’s heritage body, previously warned that Stonehenge will be placed on its In Danger List if the tunnel goes ahead, and could lose its status entirely. Such an outcome would be a national disgrace. Stonehenge is probably one of the most prominent heritage sites in the world.”Footnote 137 In two short reflective pieces, an experienced planning professional reflected on the lessons from Liverpool for Stonehenge and other UK WHSs.Footnote 138 He referred to the suggestion that WHSs should, in future, be formally included in the United Kingdom’s planning policy and given statutory status. A change, he argued, that would go some way to overcoming the difficulties encountered in Liverpool and Stonehenge. Additionally, heritage issues currently fall between two departments of state – that is, those responsible for culture and planning. Therefore, he ended by positing this question: “Is there a case for moving the sites, along with heritage in general, from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to [the] … Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities?”Footnote 139 Having a single department at the national scale dedicated to heritage and planning is a sensible way forward in circumventing some of the key problems that occurred in Liverpool, those that are currently occurring in Stonehenge, and those that may occur in other UK WHSs in the near or distant future.


To conclude this article, we broaden out the spatial focus to argue that there are important implications for policy and practice that have emerged from this study. There are pragmatic lessons that Stonehenge, and Liverpool, offer for other cultural properties around the world that face the prospect of being placed on the List in Danger and, even more dangerously, of being delisted as a UNESCO WHS. First, an interesting finding from this article concerns the role of the state party. Liverpool is a largely working-class, Left-leaning Labour Party stronghold that has, over time, been at odds with successive Conservative governments. Given this historical context, it is suggested that the perceived inaction of the then Conservative Government under previous leader Boris Johnson was a contributing factor in Liverpool losing its UNESCO WHS status in 2021.Footnote 140 As noted above, the county of Wiltshire is dominated by the Conservative Party and therefore has a very different political geography. This local-national ideological scalar alignmentFootnote 141 is reflected in central and local government support for the controversial project; we also note that in Wiltshire the state party (arguably) adopted a more interventionist role compared to Liverpool.

Moreover, the “object of contestation” and “institutionalized practices” linked to scale are different in Liverpool and Stonehenge.Footnote 142 Liverpool involved a local-international axis of political contestation and accusations that the – national – state party did not intervene effectively enough to prevent the delisting of the property. Whereas in Stonehenge, the source of the contestation was between local activists and the state party, with UNESCO regarded as a potential – international – scalar savior to prevent deleterious damage to the OUV of the property. Another point of difference was that, in Stonehenge, local activists, through the Stonehenge Alliance, openly appealed to UNESCO to place the WHS on the List in Danger, through scale jumping and upscaling an important local issue, in order to force the national government to change its road plans for the property.

This takes us to our second conclusion. Through our analysis of Stonehenge – and of LiverpoolFootnote 143 – we suggest that the conceptual lens of the “politics at the site” is key to understanding the effectiveness of local resistance to major planning interventions significantly affecting the future of WHSs. More specifically, analyzing how different scalar alignmentsFootnote 144 take place and how effective they are offers an important lesson for other WHSs. For example, in Liverpool, there is clear evidence that the controversy over the huge Liverpool Waters regeneration project “undermined the linkage” between UNESCO and the local government – Liverpool City Council – and resulted in the delisting of that property. In contradistinction, the controversial A303 road plans in Stonehenge not only “undermined the linkage” between UNESCO and the national government but also, exhibiting another dimension to the scalar politics, “strengthened alignments” between UNESCO and a local interest group – the Stonehenge Alliance. What this adds to the extant literature is that controversial planning projects are likely to collide with, and potentially provoke, geographically distinct “politics at the site,” resulting in different scalar alignments between local, national, and supranational stakeholders.

Most evidently, in the Stonehenge case, the strength of the scalar alignments created by a local stakeholder effectively stalled a major planning project. Moreover, we demonstrate how different institutional actors associated with the UK state – such as the Department for Transport – failed to realize planning visions as a result of pressure and criticism generated, in large part, due to scale jumping activities initiated by the Stonehenge Alliance. In that sense, the lesson from Stonehenge for local stakeholders in other WHSs that object to major planning proposals is clear. Creating scalar alignments with more powerful actors further up the heritage hierarchy increases the ability to successfully challenge controversial national planning and regeneration projects that may deleteriously affect the WHS. Given this, we add more nuance, depth, and substance to existing knowledge on the question of scale in the governance and politics of WHSs.

This research yields significant insights into critical areas where, to date, there has been a dearth of investigation – namely, theory and practice; the findings, therefore, have implications not only for future research but also for policy making. In terms of a theoretical contribution, we have revisited the concept of scale – specifically, scale jumping – to explain how different institutional actors influence and contest the governance of local places ordained with WHS status. In this case, a highly localized set of actors – the Stonehenge Alliance – have been shown to pressurize and ultimately block national-level transport visions and heritage protection strategies through scale jumping – in particular, invoking pressure at the international level via the UNESCO WHC and successful planning objections at the national level of the UK High Court. These actions are especially interesting in the context of Liverpool and reveal how campaigning efforts and their success is likely to vary depending, very much, on the “politics of the site.” Thus, whereas planning permission for Liverpool’s waterfront development proceeded in the interests of inward investment and economic growth – ultimately, resulting in the delisting of the WHS – the “politics of the site” in the rural, politically Conservative setting of Stonehenge resulted in wholly different realities in terms of planning and governance outcomes.

The contrasting outcomes and strategies played out in the respective sites of Stonehenge and Liverpool suggest a need for further study of diverse cases with a view to better understanding the implications of WHS status on planning praxis and resistance. For example, the UK Government recently revealed seven new places it is backing to win future UNESCO WHS,Footnote 145 including Birkenhead near Liverpool (the People’s Park), York, and the Zenith of Iron Age Shetland (combining three sites on the Shetland Islands). Notwithstanding the prospective economic benefits of WHS status, the experience of Stonehenge suggests inclusion into the WHS club represents a potential resource for campaigners, through which WHSs may be used as a bulwark for resisting unwanted planning applications (that is, those perceived to affect the cultural-historical interests of the sites). Moreover, future high-profile disputes invoking UNESCO and landmark delisting events, we suggest, support the vision that major policy changes are inevitable if events at Liverpool and Stonehenge are replicated at new sites in the future.Footnote 146

Reflecting the literature, this article is not about the role of scale in “heritage making”; rather, we see it as contributing to debates on heritage scale as a “category of practice.”Footnote 147 In terms of our own contribution to knowledge, we have advanced the concept of scalar maneuvers. We have analyzed how the Stonehenge Alliance created local agitation against a major road development linked to the WHS, reported to the national government criticizing the road plans and successfully challenged their road proposals in the UK High Court, and pleaded with supranational UNESCO to place Stonehenge on the List in Danger. We regard this activity as displaying more than scale jumping. As these acts were performed in sequence to resist a planning proposal from a higher scaleFootnote 148 and designed to affect leverage over the future status of the WHS, it amounts to what may be considered to be scalar maneuvering akin to scalar gymnastics.

In conclusion, this article contributes to knowledge on the “act of remaking the geographical scale of daily social and political intercourse” and, more importantly, “alerts us to the fact that ‘jumping scale’ is a political activity.”Footnote 149 In so doing, we have developed an understanding of the nuanced and complex relationship between heritage, scale, and politics. In particular, we have responded to calls for a more informed “understand[ing] [of] how social actors choose to re-scale an issue, whether up or down, following their own interests.”Footnote 150 Finally, framed through the case study of Stonehenge, the findings from this article highlight the “messy affairs with politics at various scales”Footnote 151 and, more importantly, will “enable[e] more profound and lasting productive interactions within and between practice and research” relating to the future of WHSs in the United Kingdom and around the world.Footnote 152


1 Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Heritage and Natural Heritage, 16 November 1972, 1037 UNTS 151.

2 Meskell and Liuzza Reference Meskell and Liuzza2022.

3 Hamman and Hølleland Reference Hamman and Hølleland2023, 87.

4 Rodwell Reference Rodwell2022. He argues that the key problem surrounded the changing use and interpretation of urban landscape in key International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) / World Heritage Committee (WHC) documentation relating to major regeneration along Liverpool’s waterfront.

5 Chetwin Reference Chetwin2021, 39.

6 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) WHC 2021a.

7 Hølleland Hamman, and Phelps Reference Hølleland, Hamman and Phelps2019; Zhang and Brown, Reference Zhang and Brown2022.

8 The first European city to be delisted by UNESCO WHC and second ever to be delisted after the Arabian Oryx. For a full discussion of their respective delistings, see Hamman and Hølleland Reference Hamman and Hølleland2023.

9 Hølleland Hamman, and Phelps Reference Hølleland, Hamman and Phelps2019, 54.

11 World Heritage Watch, (accessed 1st May 2023).

12 UNESCO, (accessed 1st May 2023).

13 Stonehenge Alliance, (accessed 1st May 2023).

14 “Save Stonehenge,” Instagram, (accessed 1st May 2023); “Save Stonehenge,” Twitter, (accessed 1st May 2023); “Stonehenge Alliance,” Facebook, (accessed 1st May 2023).

15 “Global Strategy,” UNESCO, (accessed 2nd June 2022); Zhang and Brown Reference Zhang and Brown2022; Dattilo, Padovano, and Rocaboy Reference Dattilo, Padovano and Rocaboy2023.

16 Wienberg Reference Wienberg2021, 197–98.

18 Graham, Ashworth, and Tunbridge Reference Graham, Ashworth and Tunbridge2000.

20 World Heritage UK 2019, 10.

21 Zhang, Cheng, and Zhang Reference Zhang, Cheng and Zhang2023.

25 Patiwael, Groote, and Vanclay Reference Patiwael, Groote and Vanclay2022, 254.

26 Zhang and Brown Reference Zhang and Brown2022, 579.

29 “Danger,” UNESCO, (accessed 2nd May 2023).

30 Other examples include disappearance caused by accelerated deterioration; destruction caused by changes in the use or ownership of the land; major alterations due to unknown causes; abandonment for any reason whatsoever; the outbreak or the threat of an armed conflict; calamities and cataclysms; serious fires, earthquakes, and landslides; volcanic eruptions; changes in water level, floods, and tidal waves. “Article 11(4),” UNESCO, (accessed 2nd May 2023).

31 Brown, Liuzza, and Meskell Reference Brown, Liuzza and Meskell2019.

32 Birendra Reference Birendra2021. Apart from Liverpool, only two other sites have been delisted. In 2007, Oman’s Arabian Oryx Sanctuary was the first site to be removed from UNESCO’s World Heritage Site (WHS) list. The decision was taken after Omani authorities reduced the size of the site’s protected area by 90 percent, in contravention of the Operational Guidelines of the World Heritage Convention (Lee Reference Lee2009). In 2009, Dresden Elbe Valley was delisted due to concerns over the

33 Bertacchini, Liuzza, and Meskell Reference Bertacchini, Liuzza and Meskell2017; Hølleland, Hamman, and Phelps Reference Hølleland, Hamman and Phelps2019; Liuzza Reference Liuzza2021; Liuzza and Meskell Reference Liuzza and Meskell2023; Meskell Reference Meskell2021.

34 Brown, Liuzza, and Meskell Reference Brown, Liuzza and Meskell2019.

36 Hamman and Hølleland Reference Hamman and Hølleland2023, 194.

37 Brenner Reference Brenner2001, 594.

41 Amin Reference Amin2004; Massey Reference Massey2004. Sally Marston, John Jones, and Keith Woodward (Reference Marston, Jones and Woodward2005) questioned scalar thinking that privileged the global over the national and local, and, such was their dissatisfaction with extant research, they spoke of abandoning hierarchical scale. In its place, they mused on the merits of a flat ontology of scale (422–26); in so doing, they induced pro-scale responses from Chris Collinge (Reference Collinge2006) and Andrew Jonas (Reference Jonas2006).

42 MacKinnon Reference MacKinnon2011, 22, 32.

43 Graham, Ashworth, and Tunbridge Reference Graham, Ashworth and Tunbridge2000.

46 Hamman and Hølleland Reference Hamman and Hølleland2023, 189.

47 Graham, Ashworth, and Tunbridge Reference Graham, Ashworth and Tunbridge2000.

48 Harvey Reference Harvey2015, 577.

49 Graham, Ashworth, and Tunbridge Reference Graham, Ashworth and Tunbridge2000, 181.

50 Jones, Jones, and Hughes Reference Jones, Jones and Hughes2016.

54 Gea, Martínez-Hernández, and Gómez Reference Gea, Martínez-Hernández and Gómez2021, 2.

56 MacKinnon Reference MacKinnon2011, 24.

58 Wodiczko’s second “vehicle for the evicted” was the Poliscar. This was a hybrid combination of a Dalek from the British Broadcasting Corporation’s Doctor Who series and a World War I “cubist tank.” Its aim was to “take much more seriously homeless people’s need for security and privacy” (Smith Reference Smith1992, 59).

59 Smith Reference Smith1992, 70.

60 Swyngedouw Reference Swyngedouw2014.

61 Swyngedouw and Williams Reference Swyngedouw and Williams2016, 65.

64 Debarbieux and Munz Reference Debarbieux and Munz2019.

66 Zwegers Reference Zwegers2022, 15.

69 Zwegers Reference Zwegers2022.

70 MacKinnon Reference MacKinnon2011.

72 Hamman and Hølleland Reference Hamman and Hølleland2023.

73 Criteria I: the sites demonstrate outstanding creative and technological achievements in prehistoric times; Criteria II: it provides an outstanding illustration of the evolution of monument construction and continual use and shaping of the landscape from the Neolithic period to the Bronze Age; Criteria III: the monuments provide an exceptional insight into the funerary and ceremonial practices in Britain in the Neolithic and Bronze Age. “Stonehenge, Avebury, and Associated Sites,” (accessed 2nd May 2023).

74 Wiltshire Council 2015.

75 World Heritage UK 2019, 25.

76 Wiltshire Assembly 2011, 9.

77 “Stonehenge, Avebury, and Associated Sites.”

78 Witcher Reference Witcher2021.

79 On digital heritage site experiences, see Marek Reference Marek2022.

81 Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 2022, 2.

82 “The Battle of Stonehenge: What to Know About the Controversial £1.7bn Tunnel Project,” The Week, 2021, (accessed 3rd April 2022).

84 Wiltshire Council 2015, 71.

86 Simmonds and Thomas Reference Simmonds and Thomas2015, 75.

87 Simmonds and Thomas Reference Simmonds and Thomas2015.

88 Wiltshire Council 2015, 79.

89 Wiltshire Council 2015, 291.

90 Wiltshire Council 2015, 292.

91 Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 2022, 2.

92 MacKinnon Reference MacKinnon2011.

93 Zwegers Reference Zwegers2022.

94 Fielden Reference Fielden2018, 159.

95 For a critical view of major road construction projects, see Campaign to Protect Rural England 2017.

96 Freeman and Todd Reference Freeman and Todd2023, 4.

97 Witcher Reference Witcher2021, 3.

98 Campaign to Protect Rural England 2017, 3.

99 Planning Inspectorate 2020; Marshall Reference Marshall2021; Witcher Reference Witcher2021.

100 UNESCO / International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) 2018, 6.

101 UNESCO / ICOMOS 2018, 8.

102 UNESCO WHC 2019, 2021a.

103 Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 2020, 3.

104 UNESCO/ ICOMOS 2018, 7.

105 Freeman and Todd Reference Freeman and Todd2023.

106 A druid was a member of the high-ranking class in ancient Celtic cultures. Druids were religious leaders as well as legal authorities, adjudicators, lorekeepers, medical professionals, and political advisor. The current druid leader is Arthur Uthur Pendgragon. “History of Wales: Druids,” Historic UK, (accessed 2nd April 2022).

107 “The Battle of Stonehenge”; see also “Save Stonehenge,” Instagram; “Save Stonehenge,” Twitter; “Stonehenge Alliance,” Facebook.

108 Smith Reference Smith1992.

110 MacKinnon Reference MacKinnon2011.

111 Zwegers Reference Zwegers2022.

112 Fielden Reference Fielden2021, 13 (emphasis added).

115 Gaillard and Rodwell Reference Gaillard and Rodwell2015.

116 Hølleland Hamman, and Phelps Reference Hølleland, Hamman and Phelps2019.

117 World Heritage UK 2019, 19.

118 Wiltshire Council has 98 councillors: 61 Conservatives, 27 Liberal Democrats, 7 Independents, 3 Labour, (accessed 3rd June 2023). That corresponds to 62 percent of councillors who are Conservatives and just 3 percent who represent the Labour Party. Moreover, all seven of Wiltshire’s Members of Parliament represent the Conservative Party.

119 Kate Fielden (Reference Fielden2018, 158) explains: “We have built a strong community of individual supporters through our national and international petitions available in a number of languages, with over 32,000 signatures of people of all ages and walks of life and from more than 40 countries. Our website is a point of reference with news, videos, articles, and copies of our correspondence.” On the “domestic legal battle” in Dresden, see Hamman and Hølleland Reference Hamman and Hølleland2023, 212–15.

120 “The role of the court is not to re-make the decision or consider the merits of the scheme, but to assess whether the process of the decision-making followed correct procedure.” Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 2022, 20.

121 “Stonehenge Campaigners Will Court Battle,” BBC News, 2021, (accessed 4th April 2022); “Stonehenge Tunnel Project Blocked as Campaigners Win High Court Battle,” ITV News, 2021, (accessed 4th April 2022); contrastingly, see Hamman and Hølleland Reference Hamman and Hølleland2023, 218 (who reveal that Germany’s courts ruled that the controversial bridge in Dresden should be constructed).

122 On the alternatives, see Horgan Reference Horgan2022; Moore Reference Moore2022.

123 Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 2022; Steven Morris, “Stonehenge Road Tunnel Go-Ahead Unlawful, High Court Told,” The Guardian, 23 June 2021,; Kevin Rawlinson and Gwyn Topham, “High Court Victory for Stonehenge Campaigners as Tunnel Is Ruled Unlawful,” The Guardian, 30 July 2021,

124 Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 2022, 21.

125 “The Battle of Stonehenge.”

126 Miranda Bryant and Steven Morris, “Stonehenge Tunnel Plans Continue Despite High Court Ruling,” The Guardian, 4 August 2021, ( accessed 4th April 2022).

127 National Highways, formerly the Highways Agency and later Highways England, is a government-owned company with responsibility for operating, maintaining, and improving motorways and major A roads in England. “National Highways,” (accessed 3rd June 2023).

128 National Highways 2022.

129 Bryant and Morris, “Stonehenge Tunnel.”

130 Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 2022.

131 Wallace Ludel, “UNESCO Indefinitely Postpones Planned World Heritage Meeting in Russia,” The Art Newspaper, 22 April 2022, (accessed 4th April 2022).

132 “Extended 45th Session of the World Heritage Committee,” UNESCO, (accessed 3rd June 2023).

133 Siba Jackson, “Stonehenge: Plans to Build Road Tunnel near English Heritage Site Approved,” Sky News, 2023, (accessed 3rd June 2023); Gwyn Topham, “Stonehenge Road Tunnel Plans Approved by Transport Secretary,” The Guardian, 14 July 2023, (accessed 5th July 2023).

134 Sammy Jenkins, “Stonehenge Tunnel Is Approved by Government,” BBC News, 2023, (accessed 5th July 2023).

135 Zwegers Reference Zwegers2022.

136 Cited in Jenkins, “Stonehenge Tunnel.”

137 Cited in Jenkins, “Stonehenge Tunnel.”

139 Wray Reference Wray2021a, 398.

141 Zwegers Reference Zwegers2022.

142 MacKinnon Reference MacKinnon2011.

144 Zwegers Reference Zwegers2022.

145 “Seven Sites Confirmed in the Running for UNESCO World Heritage Status,” UK Government, 10 April 2023, (accessed 5th July 2023).

147 Debarbieux and Munz Reference Debarbieux and Munz2019; Debarbieux et al. 2023.

148 Smith Reference Smith1992.

149 Smith Reference Smith1996, 65, 72.

150 Debarbieux and Munz Reference Debarbieux and Munz2019, 1251.

151 Hamman and Hølleland Reference Hamman and Hølleland2023, 221.


Amin, Ash. 2004. “Regions Unbound: Towards a New Politics of Place.” Geografiska Annaler, Series B 86, no. 1: 3344.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Baxter, Ian, and Chippindale, Christopher. 2000. “The Stonehenge We Don’t Deserve.” Antiquity 74: 944–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bertacchini, Enrico, Liuzza, Claudia, and Meskell, Lynn. 2017. “Shifting the Balance of Power in the UNESCO World Heritage Committee: An Empirical Assessment.” International Journal of Cultural Policy 23, no. 3: 331–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bertacchini, Enrico, Liuzza, Claudia, Meskell, Lynn, and Saccone, Donatella. 2016. “The Politicization of UNESCO World Heritage Decision Making.” Public Choice 167: 95129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Birendra, KC 2021. “A Comprehensive Analysis of Threats to UNESCO WHSs in Danger.” Annals of Tourism Research Empirical Insights 2, no. 1: 110.Google Scholar
Boland, Philip, Hastings, Thomas, Boland, Paul, McKay, Stephen, Majury, Niall, and Galway, Neil. 2022. “The Politics of World Heritage Sites: City Planning, Bird Shit Architecture and European Impunity.” Territory, Politics, Governance. Scholar
Brown, Nicholas, Liuzza, Claudia, and Meskell, Lynn. 2019. “The Politics of Peril: UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger.” Journal of Field Archaeology 44, no. 5: 287303.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Brenner, Neil. 2001. “The Limits To Scale? Methodological Reflections on Scalar Structuration.” Progress in Human Geography 25, no. 4: 591614.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Brenner, Neil, Jessop, Bob, Jones, Martin, and MacLeod, Gordon. 2003. “Introduction: State Space in Question.” In State/ Space: A Reader, edited by Brenner, N., Jessop, B., Jones, M., and MacLeod, G., 126. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Brumann, Christoph, and Gfeller, Aurélie. 2022. “Cultural Landscapes and the UNESCO World Heritage List: Perpetuating European Dominance.” International Journal of Heritage Studies 28, no. 2: 147–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Campaign to Protect Rural England. 2017. The End of the Road? Challenging the Road-Building Consensus. London: Campaign to Protect Rural England.Google Scholar
Chauma, Elemot, and Ngwira, Cecilia. 2022. “Managing a World Heritage Site in Malawi: Do Residents’ Sentiments Matter?Journal of Heritage Tourism 17, no. 2: 142–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chetwin, Dave. 2021. “What Was UNESCO Up to in Liverpool? Liverpool’s Long and Winding Road.” Context 170: 3840.Google Scholar
Collinge, Chris. 2005. “The Differance between Society and Space: Nested Scales and the Returns of Spatial Fetishism.” Environment and Planning D 23, no. 2: 189206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Collinge, Chris. 2006. “Flat Ontology and the Deconstruction of Scale: A Response to Marston, Jones and Woodward.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 31, no. 2: 244–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dattilo, Martina, Padovano, Fabio, and Rocaboy, Yvon. 2023. “More Is Worse: The Evolution of Quality of the UNESCO World Heritage List and Its Determinants.” Journal of Cultural Economics 47: 7196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dawson, Michael. 2021. “Valuing Heritage.” The Historic Environment: Policy and Practice 12, no. 1: 13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Debarbieux, Bernard, and Munz, Hervé. 2019. “Scaling Heritage: The Construction of Scales in the Submission Process of Alpinism to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List.” International Journal of Heritage Studies 25, no. 12: 1248–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Debarbieux, Bernard, Bortolotto, Chiara, Munz, Hervé, and Raziano, Cécilia. 2023. “Sharing Heritage? Politics and Territoriality in UNESCO’s Heritage Lists.” Territory, Politics, Governance 11, no. 3: 624708.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. 2020. State of Conservation Report for the Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites World Heritage Site. (accessed 4th June 2022).Google Scholar
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. 2022. State of Conservation Report for the Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites World Heritage Site. (accessed 4th June 2022).Google Scholar
Fielden, Kate. 2000. “Stonehenge Deserves the Right Road Solution.” Antiquity 74: 946–49.Google Scholar
Fielden, Kate. 2018. “Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites WHS under Threat of Road Construction.” In World Heritage Watch Report, 156–59. Berlin: World Heritage Watch.Google Scholar
Fielden, Kate. 2019. “Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites WHS Still under Threat of Road Construction” In World Heritage Watch Report, 138–41. Berlin: World Heritage Watch.Google Scholar
Fielden, Kate. 2021. “Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites under Imminent Threat of Major Road Construction.” In World Heritage Watch Report, 1013. Berlin: World Heritage Watch.Google Scholar
Freeman, Kate, and Todd, Chris. 2023. “Stonehenge Road Scheme Doesn’t Add Up!” Stonehenge Alliance. (accessed 5th July 2022).Google Scholar
Frey, Bruno, and Steiner, Lasse. 2011. “World Heritage List: Does It Make Sense?International Journal of Cultural Policy 17, no. 5: 555–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gaillard, Bénédicte, and Rodwell, Dennis. 2015. “A Failure Of Process? Comprehending the Issues Fostering Heritage Conflict in Dresden Elbe Valley and Liverpool: Maritime Mercantile City World Heritage Sites.” Historic Environment: Policy and Practice 6, no. 1: 1640.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gea, Ana, Martínez-Hernández, Carlos, and Gómez, María. 2021. “Heritage, Geographical Scale and Didactic Potentiality: Students and Teachers’ Perspectives.” PLoS ONE 16, no. 5: 119.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Graham, Brian, Ashworth, Greg, and Tunbridge, John. 2000. A Geography of Heritage Power, Culture and Economy. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
Hamman, Evan, and Hølleland, Herdis. 2023. Implementing the World Heritage Convention. Dimensions of Compliance. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Harvey, David. 2015. “Heritage and Scale: Settings, Boundaries and Relations.” International Journal of Heritage Studies 21, no. 6: 577–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Healy, Patsy. 2004. “The Treatment of Space and Place in the New Strategic Spatial Planning in Europe.” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 28, no. 1: 4567.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hølleland, Herdis, Hamman, Evan, and Phelps, Jessica. 2019. “Naming, Shaming and Fire Alarms: The Compilation, Development and Use of the List of World Heritage in Danger.” Transnational Environmental Law 8, no. 1: 3557.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Horgan, Rob. 2022. “Stonehenge Tunnel: National Highways must justify why alternatives were ruled on.” New Civil Engineer, 22 July. (accessed 4th April 2022).Google Scholar
Howitt, Robert. 2003. “Scale.” In A Companion to Political Geography, edted by Agnew, J., Mitchell, K., and O’Tuathail, G., 138–57. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
Hull, D.R. (2023) “Lessons Learned Procuring a High Availability Tunnel Asset for the A303 Stonehenge.” In Expanding Underground-Knowledge and Passion to Make a Positive Impact on the World. Proceedings of the ITA-AITES Congress, Athens, Greece, 12th-18th May, edited by Anagnostou, G., Benardos, A., and Marinos, V., 3395. London: Taylor and Francis: CRC Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jonas, Andrew. 2006. “Pro Scale: Further Reflections on the ‘Scale Debate’ in Human Geography.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 31, no. 3: 399409.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jones, John, Leitner, Helga, Marston, Sally, and Sheppard, Eric. 2016. “Neil Smith’s Scale.” Antipode 49, no. S1: 138–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jones, Tod, Jones, Roy, and Hughes, Michael. 2016. “Heritage Designation and Scale: A World Heritage Case Study of the Ningaloo Coast.” International Journal of Heritage Studies 22, no. 3: 242–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Knowles, Loraine. 2013. “Stonehenge today.” Material Religion 9, no. 3: 411–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lähdesmäki, Tuuli, Zhu, Yujie, and Thomas, Suzie. 2019. “Introduction. Heritage and Scale.” In Politics of Scale: New Directions in Critical Heritage Studies, edited by Lähdesmäki, T., Thomas, S., and Zhu, Y., 118. New York: Berghahn Books.Google Scholar
Lee, Ean. 2009. “World Heritage Site Status: Boon or Bane?SPAFA Journal 19, no. 2: 1528.Google Scholar
Liuzza, Claudia. 2021. “The Making And UN-Making Of Consensus: Institutional Inertia in the UNESCO World Heritage Committee.” International Journal of Cultural Property 28, no. 2: 261–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Liuzza, Claudia, and Meskell, Lynn. 2023. “Power, Persuasion and Preservation: Exacting Times in the World Heritage Committee.” Territory, Politics, Governance. 11: 12651280.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
MacKinnon, Danny. 2011. “Reconstructing Scale: Towards a New Scalar Politics.” Progress in Human Geography 35, no. 1: 2136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Marek, Hannah. 2022. “Navigating Intellectual Property in the Landscape of Digital Cultural Heritage Sites.” International Journal of Cultural Property 29: 121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Marshall, Michael. 2021. “Stonehenge Scuffle.” New Scientist 249, 3316: 1617.Google Scholar
Marston, Sally. 2000. “The Social Construction of Scale.” Progress in Human Geography 24, no. 2: 219–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Marston, Sally, Jones, John, and Woodward, Keith. 2005. “Human Geography without Scale.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 30, no. 4: 416–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Massey, Doreen. 2004. “Geographies of Responsibility.” Geografiska Annaler: Series B 86, no. 1: 518.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Meskell, Lynn. 2021. “A Tale of Two Cities: The Fate of Delhi as UNESCO World Heritage.” International Journal of Cultural Property 28, no. 1: 2742.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Meskell, Lynn, and Liuzza, Claudia. 2022. “The World Is Not Enough: New Diplomacy and Dilemmas for the World Heritage Convention at 50.” International Journal of Cultural Property 29, no. 4: 391407.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Meskell, Lynn, and Liuzza, Claudia, and Brown, Nicholas. 2012. “World Heritage Regionalism: UNESCO from Europe to Asia.” International Journal of Cultural Property 22: 437–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Moore, Catherine. 2022. “Renewed Calls for Planned Stonehenge Tunnel to Be Made Longer.” New Civil Engineer. (accessed 4th April 2022).Google Scholar
National Highways. 2022. A303 Amesbury to Berwick Down: Statement of Matters Issued 30 November 2021. London: National Highways.Google Scholar
Paasi, Anssi. 2004. “Place and Region: Looking through the Prism of Scale.” Progress in Human Geography 28, no. 4: 536–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Patiwael, Patrick, Groote, Peter, and Vanclay, Frank. 2022. “Does Local Planning Culture Influence the Effectiveness of Impact Assessments?: Reflecting on Infrastructure Projects in a Dutch UNESCO World Heritage Site.” Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal 40, no. 3: 254–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Planning Inspectorate. 2020. A303 Amesbury to Berwick Down Examining Authority’s Report of Findings and Conclusions and Recommendation to the Secretary of State for Transport.–%20Final%20Recommendation%20Report.pdf (accessed 4th April 2022).Google Scholar
Rao, Kishore. 2010. “A New Paradigm for the Identification, Nomination and Inscription of Properties on the World Heritage List.” International Journal of Heritage Studies 16, no. 3: 161–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rodwell, Dennis. 2018. “The Historic Urban Landscape and the Geography of Urban Heritage.” Historic Environment: Policy and Practice 9, no. 3-4: 180206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rodwell, Dennis. 2022. “Inhabited Historic Cities, Urban Heritage, and Dissonances at the Heart of the World Heritage System.” European Journal of Post-Classical Archaeologies 12: 291352.Google Scholar
Simmonds, Sarah, and Thomas, Beth. 2015 Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites World Heritage Site Management Plan 2015. Swindon: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and Stonehenge and Avebury WHS Steering Committees.Google Scholar
Smith, Neil. 1992. “Contours of a Spatialized Politics: Homeless Vehicles and the Production of Geographical Scale.” Social Text 33: 5481.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Smith, Neil. 1996. “Spaces of Vulnerability: The Space of Flows and the Politics of Scale.” Critique of Anthropology 16, no. 1: 6377.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Smith, Neil. 2003. “Remaking Scale: Competition and Cooperation in Pre-national and Post-national Europe.” In State/ Space: A Reader, edited by Brenner, N., Jessop, B., Jones, M., and MacLeod, G., 227–38. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.Google Scholar
Smith, Neil, and Low, Setha. 2006. “Introduction: The Imperative of Public Space.” In The Politics of Public Space, edited by Low, S. and Smith, N., 116. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.Google Scholar
Stegmeijer, Eva, Veldpaus, Loes, and Janssen, Joks. 2021. “A Research Agenda for Heritage Planning: The State of Heritage Planning in Europe.” In A Research Agenda for Heritage Planning. Perspectives from Europe, edited by Stegmeijer, E. and Veldpaus, L., 320. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stone, Peter. 2006. “Stonehenge: A Final Solution?Public Archaeology 5, no. 3: 139–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Swyngedouw, Erik. 2014. “‘Not A Drop of Water…’: State, Modernity and the Production of Nature in Spain, 1898–2010.” Environment and History 20, no. 1: 6792.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Swyngedouw, Erik, and Boelens, Rutgerd. 2018‘… And Not a Single Injustice Remains’: Hydro-Territorial Colonization and Techno-Political Transformations in Spain.” In Water Justice, edited by Boelens, R., Perreault, T., and Vos, J., 115–33. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Swyngedouw, Erik, and Williams, Joe. 2016. “From Spain’s Hydro-deadlock to the Desalination Fix.” Water International 41, no. 1: 5473.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sykes, Oliver and Ludwig, Carol. 2015. “Defining and managing the Historic Urban landscape: Reflections on the English experience and some stories from Liverpool.” European Spatial Research and Policy, 22: 935.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
UNESCO/ ICOMOS. 2018. Final Report on the Joint World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS Advisory Mission to Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites. (accessed 4th April 2022).Google Scholar
UNESCO WHC. 2019. Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, 43rd session. Baku, Republic of Azerbaijan 30th June to 10th July. (accessed 4th April 2022).Google Scholar
UNESCO WHC. 2021a. Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage: Extended 44th session. Fuzhou, China, 16th to 31st July. (accessed 4th April 2022).Google Scholar
UNESCO WHC. 2021b. World Heritage Committee deletes Liverpool: Maritime Mercantile City from UNESCO’s World Heritage List. (accessed 4th April 2022).Google Scholar
Veldpaus, Loes, Kisić, Višnja, Stegmeijer, Eva and Janssen, Joks. 2021. “Towards a More Just World: An Agenda for Transformative Heritage Planning Futures.” In A Research Agenda for Heritage Planning: Perspectives from Europe, edited by Stegmeijer, E. and Veldpaus, L., 201–20. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
Wainwright, Geoffrey. 2000. “The Stonehenge We Deserve.” Antiquity 74: 334–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wienberg, Jes. 2021. Heritopia: World Heritage and Modernity. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wiltshire Assembly. 2011. People, Places and Promises: The Wiltshire Community Plan 2011–2026. Trowbridge, UK: Wiltshire Assembly.Google Scholar
Wiltshire Council. 2015. Wiltshire Core Strategy 2015. Trowbridge, UK: Wiltshire Council.Google Scholar
Witcher, Robert. 2021. “Tunnel Vision.” Antiquity,95, no. 379: 112.Google Scholar
World Heritage UK. 2019. World Heritage. A New Opportunity for Global Britain. A World Heritage UK Statement. Telford, UK: World Heritage UK.Google Scholar
Wray, Ian. 2021a. “Lessons from a Sorry World Heritage Saga.” Town and Country Planning 90, nos. 11–12: 392–98.Google Scholar
Wray, Ian. 2021b. “What Was UNESCO Up to in Liverpool? A City Is Not a Museum.” Context 170: 3537.Google Scholar
Zhang, Cheng, Cheng, Wei, and Zhang, Wanli. 2023. “Does World Heritage Inscription Promote Regional Tourism?Tourism Economics 29, no. 4: 929–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Zhang, Rouran, and Brown, Steve. 2022. “Benefit or Burden? The World Heritage Listing of Libo Karst, China.” International Journal of Heritage Studies 28, no. 5: 578–96.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Zhu, Yujie. 2019. “Politics of Scale: Cultural Heritage in China.” In Politics of Scale: New Directions in Critical Heritage Studies, edited by Lähdesmäki, T., Thomas, S., and Zhu, Y., 2135. New York: Berghahn Books.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Zwegers, Bart. 2022. Cultural Heritage in Transition: A Multi-Level Perspective on World Heritage in Germany and the United Kingdom, 1970–2020. Gewerbestrasse, Germany: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Figure 0

Figure 1. Stonehenge (courtesy of [1st May 2023]).

Figure 1

Figure 2. Plans for the A303 near Stonehenge (courtesy of Daily Mail via Google Images).

Figure 2

Figure 3. Plans for the A303 near Stonehenge (courtesy of Somerset Live via Google Images).

Figure 3

Figure 4. Plans for the A303 near Stonehenge (courtesy of The Times via Google Images).