Plans to dig a 1.8-mile road tunnel near Stonehenge have been given the go-ahead, despite groups saying it will be disastrous for tourism and compromise the monument’s status as a World Heritage Site.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said, “This Government is taking the big decisions for Britain’s future and this major investment in the South West will provide a huge boost for the region”.
Opponents say it would be “disastrous” for tourism, while people living around the henge have been fighting a 20-year battle to ease traffic jams on what is known as ‘Britain’s worst bottleneck’.
The route will largely follow the existing road but will now be a further 50 metres away from the prehistoric monument.
The slightly altered plans mainly affect the western end of the tunnel and follow concerns that the original route would have passed too close to key monuments and spoil the view of the setting sun at the winter solstice. Changes also include a new Winterbourne Stoke bypass which will now go to the north of the village.
This next stage will include options for improving Countess Roundabout with planners looking at the possibility of a flyover.
English Heritage, National Trust and Historic England are happy with the plans and have issued a joint statement:
“We welcome the amended route and believe it can, if designed and located with utmost care, deliver a lasting legacy for the World Heritage site.”
However, not everybody is happy with the outcome. The Stonehenge Alliance says, “We are shocked at Highways England’s indifference to UNESCO’s advice. The project needs a complete re-think, not a minor tweak which still threatens major harm to this iconic landscape.”
Previously Unesco, the organisation that decides World Heritage status on sites, said the tunnel should be “reconsidered”. Unesco has previously backed the option for a bypass to be built.
Television presenter Tony Robinson took to Twitter to show he was not happy with the Transport Minister’s announcement.
The most brutal intrusion into the #Stonehenge landscape since the stones were erected. Thankyou Mr Grayling!
— Tony Robinson (@Tony_Robinson) September 11, 2017
The tunnel will take up to four years to construct and cost £1.6bn.