Fears for the future of the historic Rollright Stones have prompted thousands of people to sign a petition opposing any future plan to use a road alongside the monument as a bypass.
There is currently no firm proposal to re-route heavy traffic along the small road which bisects the Rollright Stones site, but the trustees of the historic monument have quickly mobilised support against any such idea, after rumours of it emerged from a recent Chipping Norton Town Council meeting.
In order to show the public’s backing for the stones, some of which are 6,000 years old, the Rollright Trust have launched an online petition opposing any such idea.
Despite going live less than two weeks ago, the petition has already been signed by close to 31,000 people.
Robin Smitten, trustee and site manager at the Rollright Stones, said: “There’s always been this threat that the road could one-day be put forward as a bypass for Chipping Norton, there’s no doubt about it that the town does suffer from a lot of traffic.
“However modifying that road for use by HGVs would destroy anything in the ground alongside and using the road like this would make it ten times more dangerous.
“The monument is in a dedicated dark sky site, an ideal place for stargazing. If this plan went ahead we would undoubtedly lose that status. Using this road as a bypass would just destroy the Rollright Stones, to me it would be an act of vandalism.
“This has been carefully kept as a peaceful site for thousands of years, lorries driving down this road would just completely destroy all that. We’re not a hidden monument anymore, we get 15,000-20,000 visitors per year.
“Nothing concrete has been decided but we launched this petition so we can show the support we have, we want to be prepared.”
A spokesperson for Oxfordshire County Council, said: “The county council is currently investigating the most effective ways to improve air quality in Chipping Norton. At present we are gathering traffic and air quality data to analyse and will be engaging with local stakeholders in the coming months as we seek to identify viable options for the town.
“However, we have to ensure that any measures we take to remedy matters in Chipping Norton can be funded and actually result in an improvement, and also don’t create new problems elsewhere. Optioneering is expected to commence in the new financial year, subject to funding allocation.”