A judicial review is now being carried out into the project to construct the Stonehenge Bypass Tunnel. The project has been approved for construction by the UK’s Ministry of Transport but has attracted considerable controversy, with this review being the latest in a series of challenges.
This legal move will allow the UK’s High Court to examine the decision to allow approval for the €1.94 billion (£1.7 billion) project to build the new twin tube tunnel. The 3.2km tunnel and link road sections is intended to carry the busy A303, bypassing the famous Stonehenge monolith on Salisbury Plain. The new link is designed with a dual carriageway configuration, providing the capacity required for the route, which carries heavy traffic. The existing section of road running close to the monument features just a single lane in either direction and suffers heavy congestion and frequent traffic delays. There are also safety concerns over the heavy traffic passing through the village on the current route.
Construction work on the new link is intended to commence in 2023. But the Save Stonehenge World Heritage Site (SSWHS) group has been campaigning to stop the work, saying that it threatens archaeological finds in this historically important area.
The proposal to build a tunnel bypass around the monument dates back many years. A previous plan was put forward around 20-years ago but was ultimately rejected on grounds of cost. However, the rock conditions are poor and the water table is high, so it is clear that the high cost of building a tunnel in the area will be unavoidable. This current plan proposed a new and longer tunnel, but this also has met with criticism from archaeologists, with some suggestions that the stretch of the A30 to the south should be widened between Andover and Chicklade to carry the traffic volumes instead.