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Tesco puts Stonehenge tunnel back on agenda

Tesco's plans to build an enormous warehouse at Andover close to the A303 this week reopened the debate on the need to build a road tunnel under nearby Stonehenge.

Three months after the government ditched the A303 tunnel, the supermarket giant unveiled plans to open an 85,000m2 distribution centre at a 50ha site east of the ancient monument.

Studies have shown that one in five of the hundreds of lorries leaving the site each day would pass Stonehenge.

English Heritage said that the Tesco site highlighted the need for the government to revisit the Stonehenge tunnel option.

"The sight and sound of traffic on the A303 already intrudes on Stonehenge and spoils the enjoyment of many visitors to the site," said an English Heritage spokesman.

"This would only be made worse by the substantial increase in heavy goods vehicles using the road if the proposed "megashed" is built," he added.

"The need to remove the roads from around Stonehenge and upgrade the A303 to dual carriageway is widely recognised. The government has agreed that the only way to achieve both of these aims is to bury the A303 in a bored tunnel, and it remains disappointing that this solution is not considered affordable."

Transport minister Tom Harris scrapped plans for a £540M Stonehenge tunnel in December 2007. He claimed that a 2.1km bored tunnel was not value for moneyNCE 13/20 December 2007).

Freight Transport Association external affairs director Geoff Dossiter said that the Tesco scheme highlighted the urgent need to increase capacity on the A303.

"There has been very slow progress towards dealing with the problems of the A303 and this scheme would add a very substantial amount of traffic at a time when the future of the road hasn't been determined," he said.

Tesco has yet to gain planning permission for its warehouse. It has said it will mitigate traffic impact by funding improvements to theA303 junction closest to the warehouse.

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