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Highways Agency undermining our Stonehenge route, say residents


A WILTSHIRE residents group this week accused the Highways Agency of deliberately undermining proposals to build a Stonehenge bypass avoiding the World Heritage site.

It claims the Agency ordered its consultants to rubbish the proposal.

All Highways Agency ptions cut across the World Heritage site and are opposed by environmental groups.

The Association for Council Taxpayers (ACT), which claims to represent Wiltshire residents, has obtained a Highways Agency document which it says proves its claim.

The Highways Agency document, produced in 2003, outlines a six month work programme for consultant Mott MacDonald to assess the ACT scheme.

Mott MacDonald was also the consultant responsible for drawing up the Agency's original bored tunnel option. This was scrapped after costs escalated from £284M to £470M (NCE 28 July 2005).

The document sets out timescales for assessing the traffic modelling, route design and environmental impacts of the scheme.

It also includes five days for preparing an 'initial rebuttal' of the ACT scheme, 20 days for a legal review of the rebuttal and five days for the production of the final rebuttal.

The Highways Agency has worked up its own alternative options which are due to go on display in London tomorrow and Saturday. They do not include the ACT route.

ACT claims its longer southerly bypass route has been ignored because the Agency was unwilling to accept weaknesses in its own proposals.

It was rejected by the planning inspector in the 2004 public inquiry into the Agency's Stonehenge tunnel plan.

He said it offered 'very poor value for money' and was a 'long detour for A303 traffic'.

The ACT route involves no damage to the World Heritage site, but does require a bridge crossing of an Area of High Ecological Value near the historic Old Sarum north of Salisbury.

It involves diverting the A303 down the A338 and A36 corridors east and west of the site.

The ACT sent a report on its proposal to roads minister Stephen Ladyman last week. It claims the scheme can be built for £150M, although the Highways Agency claims it will cost £518M.

The ACT also claims that the detour to the south will only add four minutes to journey times.

The Highways Agency said the ACT plan - also called the Parker plan - had been fairly considered.

'The Parker Plan did go to the public inquiry, and was considered by the inquiry inspector, ' it said in a statement.

'Before the inquiry, the Highways Agency worked with the ACT in a totally impartial way in the development and assessment of their alternative route, enabling them to present it at the public inquiry.

'We were also required to present our response to the public inquiry, stating the effects of the alternative, again on a totally factual, impartial basis, ' said the statement.

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