Controversial plans for new road tunnel near Stonehenge approved

·2-min read

A controversial plan to dig a road tunnel near Stonehenge has been given the green light by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

The two-mile road tunnel will be built near the prehistoric site in Wiltshire to reduce congestion on the A303.

The decision was announced by transport minister Andrew Stephenson in a written statement to the Commons.

"The Secretary of State agrees the benefits of the development would include enabling visitors to Stonehenge to see the stone circle without the visual and aural distraction of road traffic," Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said in a letter approving the project.

The A303, a commonly used route for motorists travelling to and from the south west, can often become congested on the single carriageway which passes near Stonehenge.

Jim O'Sullivan, chief executive of Highways England, said the plans are "part of the biggest investment in our road network for a generation".

He added that "this transformational scheme will return the Stonehenge landscape towards its original setting", by removing the sight and sound of traffic in the area, with journey times also being cut.

However, some environmentalists and archaeologists have opposed the plan because of the impact it could have on the area.

In June, archaeologists discovered a large ring of around shafts within the World Heritage Site, only a short distance from the stones.

These were found "well outside the scheme boundary" and no closer than 500 metres from the planned road upgrade, according to Highways England.

Sarah Richards, the planning inspectorate's chief executive said: "There has been a great deal of public interest in this project.

"A major priority for us over the course of the examination was to ensure that communities who might be affected by this proposal had the opportunity to put forward their views.

"As always, the Examining Authority gave careful consideration to these before reaching its conclusion."