ROADS MINISTER Stephen Ladyman last week hinted that environmental groups should drop some objections to the A303 upgrade at Stonehenge, in the name of cost cutting.
He told the Highways Agency's annual conference last week that he was determined to drive down costs on the project.
He hinted that this could mean environmental and heritage bodies compromising so that the scheme could be built.
Costs soared from an original £160M estimate to £470M by the end of the public inquiry (NCE 28 July).
'At £500M I don't think any government would contemplate spending so much on such a short stretch of road, ' he said.
Cost increases associated with environmental measures killed off original plans to bury the road in bored tunnel.
Contractors are now reviving options to put the A303 in a 2.1km cut and cover tunnel or on bypasses to the north or south of Stonehenge.
Ladyman has set up a crossgovernment steering committee to argue the merits of a cheaper project over the risk of no scheme being built at all.
This will have representatives from the Departments for Transport, Culture Media & Sport, and Environment & Rural Affairs; the Highways Agency, the Government Offi ce for the South West, English Heritage and wildlife conservation body Natural England.
Contractor Balfour Beatty/ Costain will also spend the next two months dusting down previously rejected bypass and cut and cover tunnel proposals.
These will then go out to public consultation in the new year while they are discussed by Ladyman's committee.