Additional information has been submitted by National Highways to support a new application for the £1.7bn A303 Stonehenge tunnel.
Grant Shapps, the transport secretary asked for more info about the project last November ahead of considering a fresh DCO (development consent order).
The primary development consent order was quashed by a High Court judge in July last year after it ruled that Shapps had not received enough briefing on the plan’s heritage impact.
The transport secretary published a letter in November, inviting new information relative to the carbon and environmental impact of the plan, the potential merits of a longer tunnel, the project’s consistency with local or national policies, and any other information that interested parties believe is associated to a decision.
National Highways has approved it has submitted new info about alternative options to the current scheme plus the plan’s environmental impact. Full information of the new submissions is going to be made available in due course, after which other parties will be able to respond.
The highways agency asserted in a statement: “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.”
Shapps originally granted a development consent order for the project in November 2020. This was controversial at the time as it overruled the Planning Inspectorate, which had recommended declining the plans because of the effect of construction work and operation of the plan on agricultural land in the area, plus the effect on air quality and emissions.
Subsequently, the development consent order was challenged in the High Court by the Save Stonehenge World Heritage Site group, which contained the British Archaeological Trust and Friends of the Earth.
Mr. Justice Holgate quashed the development consent order in July 2021 on two points. The first was a judgment that Shapps had not been properly briefed on the project’s “impacts on heritage assets” and therefore could not have considered them when confirming the development consent order. The judge also ruled that alternative plans for the tunnel had not been assessed.
Two substitute options for the plan had been proposed. The first was to cover nearly 800 meters of the road cutting close to the World Heritage Site, and the second was to extend the excavated tunnel so that the two portals were placed outside the western boundary of the heritage site.