Heritage groups have raised concerns over Highways England’s plans to dig a tunnel near Stonehenge as part of a £1.6bn road scheme.
Proposals for a bypass at the historic site were released today as part of a public consultation on the controversial project.
Initial designs for the 13km A303 road scheme show the proposed twin-bore tunnel running for 2.9km past Stonehenge, with a new junction between the A303 and A360 replacing the existing Longbarrow roundabout.
The bypass would run north of Winterbourne Stoke village with a 210m, multi-span viaduct running over the Till valley.
Map of proposed scheme
Source: Highways England
Highways England said the route had been carefully chosen to avoid monuments and barrows at the world heritage site and would “restore the tranquil environment” surrounding Stonehenge by diverting the road through a tunnel.
But heritage groups including English Heritage, the National Trust and Historic England have expressed concern that two linked byways would bring traffic close to the site.
“It is essential that the final design is right in all these areas to protect the unique landscape of the World Heritage Site,” said the heritage bodies in a joint statement.
“However, we are very concerned about the detrimental impact of traffic on the byways on the World Heritage Site and believe this will be made worse by the proposal to link existing byways after the surface A303 is removed.”
The groups said they would welcome a 3.2km tunnel and a wider green bridge than is currently proposed near the Longbarrow roundabout.
Former transport secretary Lord Adonis called for the scheme to be cancelled.
Scrap the Stonehenge tunnel & give the money to Northern Rail! The tunnel is already £1.4bn; heritage groups calling for even longer tunnel so it will end up £3bn+. As Transport Secretary I rejected the scheme as poor value at £400m! @BBCr4today— Andrew Adonis (@Andrew_Adonis) February 8, 2018
In 2016 an Arup and Atkins joint venture won a £17.5M contract to develop options to reroute the road.
Contractors have already expressed nervousness about tunnelling under the monument. At New Civil Engineer’s Tunnelling Summit 2017, Highways England programme director for the project Derek Parody said risk allocation was a concern.
Highways England chief executive Jim O’Sullivan said: “These upgrades in the South West will improve millions of journeys. Each of these milestones in the region is evidence of Highways England delivering major infrastructure upgrades for the whole country.”
The consultation begins today and finishes on Friday 6 April.