(Main image and list image: National Highways)
The Secretary of State for Transport has granted an application for development consent of the Stonehenge tunnel.
Despite acknowledging that the scheme will “result in an increase in carbon emissions” Mark Harper “considers the Proposed Development’s effect on climate change would be minor adverse and not significant and this assessment aligns with the IEMA [Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment] guidance.
Furthermore, “the Secretary of State is satisfied that that the scheme complies with the NPSNN [National Policy Statement for National Networks], will not lead to a breach of any international obligations that result from the Paris Agreement or Government’s own polices and legislation relating to net zero.”
A previous development consent order (DCO) for the £1.7 billion scheme was quashed by the High Court in July 2021 amid concern about the environmental impact on the Unesco World Heritage Site.
The plans involve overhauling eight miles of the A303, including digging a two-mile tunnel.
Then-transport secretary Grant Shapps gave the go-ahead to the project in November 2020 despite advice from Planning Inspectorate officials it would cause “permanent, irreversible harm” to the area.
The Save Stonehenge World Heritage Site alliance successfully challenged his decision in the High Court.
Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “This saga is starting to feel almost as old as the stones themselves and it’s not over yet.
“The likelihood must be that objectors will already be poring over the Secretary of State’s lengthy and detailed decision letter looking for grounds on which to launch another legal challenge.
“Quite apart from the risk of further legal delays, the next hurdle for the project is getting the funding in place to proceed, despite the economic squeeze on the Department for Transport’s budget.
“While users of the A303 might be encouraged by today’s decision it feels like they’ll still be able to enjoy the current view of the stones from the road for quite some time to come.
“Since 1991 there have been dozens of different proposals for removing traffic from the Stonehenge site.”
The DCO can only be challenged by way of judicial review, an application for which must be lodged within the next 6 weeks.
Philip Gomm – Head of External Communications – RAC Foundation
[email protected] | 07711 776448
Notes to editors:
The RAC Foundation is a transport policy and research organisation that explores the economic, mobility, safety and environmental issues relating to roads and their users.
The Foundation publishes independent and authoritative research with which it promotes informed debate and advocates policy in the interest of the responsible motorist. All the Foundation’s work is available at: www.racfoundation.org