Progressing the construction contracts process of the A303 Amesbury to Berwick Down upgrade past the Stonehenge World Heritage Site (WHS) in Wiltshire, has been committed by Highways England.
This statement follows a High Court ruling against transport secretary Grant Shapps’ granting of a development consent order for the £1.7bn A303 improvement scheme, which plans to create a new 12.8km dual carriageway with a 3.2km tunnel to remove congestion from around Stonehenge.
According to Highways England’s emphasis: “The High Court ruling was not made about the merits of the scheme itself, but concerning points of law in the way in which the decision was made to grant permission.”
While the early works and archaeological fieldwork have now been stopped in accordance with this ruling, but Highways England stated the “disappointing” decision did not mean the tunnel was “canceled”. The estimated date for announcing the preferred bidder from three proposals that have been submitted for the tunnel and main works contract is in early 2022.
For supporting the managing, the delivery of the A303 Stonehenge main works contract, the company is also decided to take an assurance partner. In late 2021 a contract with a £60M value is expected to be awarded.
In accordance with the statement of David Bullock, Highways England project manager for the A303 Stonehenge scheme: “We have to wait while the Department for Transport considers its options, and in the meantime, we are continuing with the process to appoint a contractor for the main works phase of the scheme. We have now paused our plans to carry out early, preparatory work, but the procurement process is very much alive, to ensure we maintain program timescales as best as possible.”
“We still believe our project is the best solution to the ongoing issues along with the A303 past Stonehenge; it has been developed after a long and extensive collaboration with our key stakeholders, and we are still very much motivated to leave a legacy beyond the road – for Stonehenge, the World Heritage Site, our local communities, and future generations,” added Mr. Bullock.
In the last days of this summer the archaeological fieldwork and preliminary works are due to commence. As well as, an interim, three-month closure of the A360 to enable utility work that was earmarked to start in September has been postponed. Ongoing surveys will, however, continue.
Bullock also asserted: “In terms of our initial work, we plan to update local communities via a virtual public information event when we know a little more, and in the interim, we are continuing to communicate our plans with all stakeholders and interested parties.”
Construction process of an additional single section between Sparkford and Ilchester elsewhere along the A303, will start by Highways England plans in September.
The company stated: “The scheme, further west on the A303 in Somerset, will provide a high-quality three-mile dual carriageway link, including new and replacement slip roads, junctions and road bridges to replace existing junctions and direct access roads.”