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A303: Stonehenge re-determination

A303: Stonehenge re-determination

Eastern Entrance To The New Tunnel Near Stonehenge. Image: Highways England.

Monday 6 December 14:52

Plans to dual the A303 at Stonehenge could be re-approved in 2022 despite a successful court challenge.

The Department for Transport (DfT) granted permission to National Highways (formerly Highways England) in late-2020 to dual the A303 near the World Heritage Site at a cost of £1.7bn, including a new tunnel through the site itself.

The High Court quashed this decision in July 2021 following a successful judicial review by the Save Stonehenge World Heritage Site group – though National Highways has continued to procure contracts for the scheme.

The agency will now re-submit plans to the DfT early in the new year, with Somerset residents being able to voice their concerns in the coming months.

Natasha Kopala, head of the Planning Inspectorate’s transport infrastructure planning unit, has published details of the next steps (known as a ‘statement of matters’) on the inspectorate’s official website.

She said: “The High Court’s order dated July 30, 2021 quashed the transport secretary’s decision dated November 12, 2020 to grant the application… for the construction of a new two-lane dual carriage way for the A303 between Amesbury and Berwick Down in Wiltshire.

“Following that judgement, the secretary of state must now re-determine that application.”

Mr Justice Houlgate ruled in the campaigners’ favour on two counts in July – the impact on heritage assets and the failure to consider alternative schemes.

He stated in his judgement: “The relative merits of the alternative tunnel options, compared to the western cutting and portals, were an obviously material consideration which the transport secretary was required to assess.

“It was irrational not to do so. This was not merely a relevant consideration which he could choose whether or not to take into account.

“I reach this conclusion for a number of reasons, the cumulative effect of which I judge to be overwhelming.”

National Highways will have until January 11 to resubmit the application with formal responses to the issues raised in Mr Justice Houlgate’s judgement.

The Planning Inspectorate will then invited interested parties – including local residents – to make any further submissions before transport secretary Grant Shapps MP makes his decision.

A spokesman for National Highways said: “We will be working hard to provide the information the secretary of state has requested, including the information on carbon and climate change.

“We remain confident the scheme is the best solution to solving the traffic problems along this notoriously congested section of the A303, and to remove the sight and the sound of the traffic from the Stonehenge landscape and the World Heritage Site.”

Words: Daniel Mumby, Local Democracy Reporter

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