Controversial Stonehenge tunnel gets the green light

Controversial Stonehenge tunnel gets the green light
The government has given the go-ahead for a controversial two-mile tunnel under Stonehenge.

Transport minister Andrew Stephenson announced approval for the £1.7 million project, designed to tackle frequent congestion along the A303 near the stones in Wiltshire.

The decision comes despite official warnings that the project will cause “permanent irreversible harm” to the World Heritage Site.

First proposed in the late Eighties, plans for the Stonehenge tunnel have been repeatedly rejected due to fears of damaging archaeological areas and artifacts around the monument.

Now approved, the project will see the single carriageway along the A303 turned into a dual-carriageway tunnel running under the ancient site.

Highways England says the tunnel will remove the sight and sound of traffic passing the popular tourist area, while cutting journey times for both tourists and commuters travelling to and from the South West.

But environmentalists and archaeologists are still openly opposed to the project due to its potential destructive impact.

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The Planning Inspectorate – an executive agency of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government – also recommended the Transport Secretary withhold consent, because of the irreversible damage the project could have on the authenticity of Stonehenge.

However, Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, overruled the recommendation, giving the scheme the green light and ending more than three decades of debate.

There is now a six-week period in which the decision can be challenged in the High Court.

Greenpeace UK head of transport, Richard George criticised the government’s decision. He said: “This new road tunnel will be a disaster for England’s heritage and the world’s climate.

“If the Government is serious about a green recovery from the pandemic, it should be investing in public transport, but instead we’re getting more traffic and more pollution.”

Highways England project director Derek Parody said it is collaborating with heritage groups such as English Heritage, National Trust and Historic England to ensure the scheme will “conserve and enhance” the World Heritage Site.

Preparatory work on the project is due to begin in spring next year, with the five-year construction phase expected to start by 2023, one year later than originally planned.

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