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HERITAGE ORGANISATIONS seized on last week's announcement of a full review of the A303 Stonehenge tunnel as a chance to revisit options rejected during the 2004 public inquiry.

The planning inspector decided to recommend a 2.1km bored tunnel ahead of other options in the belief that the scheme would cost £284M.

This has now been revealed as a gross underestimate.

Heritage rganisations including the National Trust and ICOMOS-UK have called for all options to be reconsidered in the review.

These include bypasses to the north and south of the World Heritage Site and a longer tunnel with portals outside the site (see table).

In his recommendations, inquiry inspector Michael Ellison said that: 'I conclude that no potentially acceptable alternative proposal has been put forward which would achieve the requirements of the A303 improvement scheme at less cost than the published scheme.

He rejected the cheaper alternatives because they contained 'fundamental flaws'.

Ellison concluded that for the longer tunnel option 'the additional cost would not the justified by the benefits that the proposal would deliver.' But the National Trust remains in favour of a longer, 2.9km tunnel. 'Our stated position remains for a longer tunnel. Our central objective remains reuniting the stones with nature using a solution that is first class, ' said a National Trust spokesman.

Meanwhile project sources admitted that the cost increase meant that there was now 'not a great deal to choose' between the proposed sprayed concrete lined tunnel and a bored tunnel.

And switching to a bored tunnel would mean that extra length could be added more cost effectively than with the sprayed option.

'If you go with a TBM the longer it is, the more economic it becomes. But all that is doing is adding pressure to costs, ' said a source.

ICOMOS-UK wants a bypass to the north .

'We welcome the announcement of a detailed review. Something has to be done and it is not the current scheme, ' said ICOMOS-UK secretary Susan Denyer. 'We welcome the idea to stand back and look at all the options.

'It is a long term project and the important thing is to get it right. World Heritage sites are there for the long term so it is worth hanging on for the best solution.' The planning inspector had previously dismissed the concerns of National Trust and ICOMOS-UK.

Ellison's report says it is 'regrettable' that the Trust's proposals were not put forward to the inquiry as a formal alternative to be 'properly assessed'. Instead a Green Party proposal of a 4.5km long tunnel was considered.

He added that ICOMOSUK's objections, which were also not put forward formally, 'cannot be sustained'.

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