A new legal challenge has emerged against the Stonehenge Tunnel Bypass project in the UK. The challenge has been launched by a campaigning body, Save Stonehenge World Heritage Site (SSWHS).
SSWS has given the UK’s transport secretary, Grant Shapps, notice saying that it plans to launch its legal challenge against the £1.7 billion tunnel project, which recently received approval from the UK Government.
The judicial review into the project will have to commence by the 24th December 2020.
The existing A303 road along this section of the route is unable to cope with the traffic volumes it handles at present and suffers extensive delays at peak periods. It features just a single lane in either direction, passing through a village, and is utterly unsuited to the number of heavy vehicles it carries. Safety is an important concern.
The tunnel would divert the A303 away from the historically important Stonehenge monolith and provide a twin tube tunnel, measuring some 2.6km. However, there are concerns that the new tunnel construction and the cuttings for the portals would threaten other archaeological sites as yet undiscovered, as well as causing damage to the local ecosystem.
The Stonehenge Tunnel Bypass project has been cancelled in the past on grounds of cost. The current planned route is different from the version cancelled earlier however and is longer, having taken into account some of the concerns over the previous alignment. But an even longer tunnel might be the only option that would prove palatable to those claiming the project poses a threat to the area’s historical importance.
Because the ground conditions are poor and the water table high, building any tunnel in this area will be costly and complex. It will require extensive drainage and tailings removal to prevent the water table being affected as well to ensure no contaminants from the road leach into the surrounding area. The tunnel will also require considerable quantities of concrete in its construction to ensure it is structurally sound.