Campaigners against Stonehenge tunnel claim scheme's approval was 'unlawful'

Plans include a tunnel at least two miles long underneath the World Heritage Site, closely following the existing A303 route. Credit: PA

An opposition group against the approval of a tunnel near Stonehenge, say they are going to take legal action against the decision.

On Thursday 12 November the government gave the go-ahead for a £1.6bn scheme aimed at easing congestion along the A303. Highways England says its plan for a two-mile tunnel will remove the sight and sound of traffic passing the site and cut journey times.

Members of the Save Stonehenge World Heritage Site group say they want to investigate the 'lawfulness of the decision to approve the A303 Stonehenge dual carriageway.'

The Transport Secretary’s announcement follows a rigorous and detailed planning hearing in 2019, and there is now a six-week period in which the decisions may be challenged in the High Court.

In June it emerged that a team of archaeologists had discovered a ring of at least 20 large shafts within the World Heritage Site, a short distance from the stones.

The lead archaeologist, Professor David Jacques, says the decision was "gut-wrenching". He says, "The tunnel is going to clearly compromise the archaeology. 

The opposition group are now trying to raise £50,000 to cover the initial costs of the legal action. They say they have no choice other than to fight against the decision that was made against the recommendations of planning officials.

Tom Holland, Stonehenge Alliance President, said: “I fully back the move to test whether Grants Shapps acted legally in approving this highly wasteful and destructive road scheme. The Government has ignored advice from both UNESCO and the independent panel who presided over a six-month examination. To have won the arguments based on reason and evidence, and then to have them overruled on a ministerial whim, shows just how broken the roads approval process is."

Fieldwork is due to start in late spring next year, with the main five-year construction phase expected to start by 2023.