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Tue June 18 2024

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More delays for Stonehenge tunnel as project returns to court

21 May Campaigners against the Stonehenge tunnel project have been given permission to appeal a High Court ruling that cleared National Highways’ development consent order.

CGI of the western tunnel entrance
CGI of the western tunnel entrance

The campaign group, Save Stonehenge World Heritage Site (SSWHS), has proved a thorn in the side National Highways, battling against the £2.5bn A303 Stonehenge (Amesbury to Berwick Down) project. It succeeded in getting the original development consent order (DCO) quashed by the courts in 2021 but National Highways managed to get another one last year.

A legal challenge against the second DCO was thrown out by Mr Justice Holgate in February.  But an appeal against this judgment is now set to be heard by the Court of Appeal.

National Highways said that it would now have to adjust the whole main works programme. “We don’t know what that will look like yet, because we don’t know the extent of the delay,” it said. “The legal process timescale is not within our control, and we will need to work closely with DfT [Department for Transport] and our legal teams to understand what our next steps are.”

John Adams, chair of the Stonehenge Alliance and one of the three directors of SSWHS, said: “This is extremely good news. All those who care passionately about our cultural heritage can breathe a sigh of relief. We now have a new opportunity for the government decision to be thoroughly scrutinised.

“This road scheme would be incredibly damaging to Stonehenge World Heritage Site. Yet, the government doesn’t seem to care and is desperately trying to bulldoze through this decision before it is thrown out of office.”

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Leigh Day solicitor Rowan Smith, acting for SSWHS, said: “This news is very encouraging for our client. In granting permission to appeal, the Court of Appeal acknowledged the scale of public interest around ensuring that a decision about the future of Stonehenge is lawful.

“The court said there is a compelling reason for an appeal hearing. Our client is looking forward to presenting arguments about the fairness of the decision-making process relating to the future of Stonehenge as well as compliance with international law protecting the World Heritage Site.”

National Highways project director David Bullock said: “We are hugely disappointed by this decision, which will cause more delays to this scheme as the next stage of the legal process unfolds.

“However we will participate fully in any future legal proceedings to continue to present the case for the scheme, working closely with the DfT.”

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