Campaigners file a new legal claim about Stonehenge Road.

Campaigners file a new legal claim about Stonehenge Road.

Campaigners have initiated a fresh legal battle against the approval of a contentious road project by the Transport Secretary. The project involves constructing a tunnel near Stonehenge, a decision that had been successfully blocked by campaigners two years ago.

Save Stonehenge World Heritage Site (SSWHS) is contesting the decision of Mark Harper to endorse the £1.7 billion scheme, which aims to revamp an eight-mile section of the A303 highway, including the construction of a two-mile tunnel.

An earlier development consent order granted for the National Highways project was invalidated by the High Court in July 2021 due to concerns about its environmental impact on the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Historian and Stonehenge Alliance President Tom Holland asserted that a new legal challenge was imperative to prevent a development that would irrevocably harm the Stonehenge landscape.

Despite advice from Planning Inspectorate officials warning of “permanent, irreversible harm” to the area, the then-Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, approved the project in November 2020. The Save Stonehenge World Heritage Site alliance successfully challenged this decision in the High Court.

On July 14, the Department for Transport granted approval for the tunnel from Amesbury to Berwick Down in Wiltshire for the second time. Now, campaigners are attempting to thwart the project once again.

John Adams, one of the directors of SSWHS and chair of the Stonehenge Alliance, criticized the Government’s indifference to concerns and its determination to proceed with the scheme. He emphasized the necessity of a second legal challenge to counter such resolve.

Rowan Smith, a solicitor from Leigh Day representing the campaigners, highlighted that the decision appears to have been made on unlawful grounds. The campaigners argue that the failure to reopen the public examination for a second round was unjust and a violation of human rights. They are seeking permission from the court for a full hearing.

Stonehenge, along with Avebury, holds UNESCO World Heritage Site status due to the significance of its megaliths, intricate plans, and the complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age sites and monuments.

The A303 is known for traffic congestion, particularly during peak holiday periods. Highways England’s plan to construct a two-mile tunnel aims to mitigate traffic sight and sound near the site, while some environmentalists and archaeologists express opposition due to the potential impact on the area. The project requires a development consent order as it is classified as nationally significant.

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