A ruling in the High Court, following a judicial review, has quashed an order granted by transport secretary Grant Shapps for a £1.7bn road tunnel near Stonehenge to go ahead.
Campaigners fighting the tunnel plans claimed that the tunnel, aimed at cutting journey times on the A303, would be to the detriment of Stonehenge, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Highways England, which had planned to start work in 2023, claimed the tunnel would remove the sight and sound of traffic passing the monument.
A ruling by Mr Justice Holgate found that Shapps’ decision to allow the tunnel to go ahead was unlawful. He found there was a “material error of the law” in the government’s decision-making process and there was no evidence of the impact on each individual asset on the site. He added that Shapps had also failed to consider alternative schemes.
A Department for Transport statement said: “We now have to wait while the Department for Transport considers its options. This is a setback, but we remain confident our project is the best solution to the ongoing issues along the A303 past Stonehenge and was developed after a long and extensive collaboration with our key stakeholders.
“We are hugely disappointed by the decision, and we know this will also dismay many people in the local community who have waited decades for a solution and all those who use the road to travel to work or on holiday in the South West.”
Save Stonehenge World Heritage Site (SSWHS) raised £50,000 to bring the judicial review, arguing that Shapps did not properly consider the damage the tunnel would do to prehistoric sites and artefacts.