Stonehenge campaigners make last-ditch bid to stop government building road tunnel next to ancient site

11 December 2023, 09:49

Stonehenge could have a tunnel built near it
Stonehenge could have a tunnel built near it. Picture: Getty/Highways England

By Kit Heren

Campaigners are making a final bid to block the government from building a road tunnel next to Stonehenge.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Activists say that the two-mile tunnel would damage the ancient Wiltshire monument, citing a planning report that found it would cause "permanent, irreversible harm".

Campaigners have voiced fears the 5,000-year-old monument itself could be destabilised by excavation work.

The government and those in favour say that the tunnel would ease congestion and reduce traffic noise around Stonehenge.

The plans were first mooted in 2017 and approved in 2020. They were then overturned on appeal in 2021 following a campaign, before being given the go-ahead again by Transport Secretary Mark Harper earlier this year.

Read more: Eco-campaigner 'King Arthur' criticises Stonehenge tunnel plan approval

Read more: Transport Secretary approves plans for controversial Stonehenge tunnel

Thousands welcome summer solstice at Stonehenge

Now activists have taken the case to the High Court for a further legal challenge, with the three-day hearing beginning on Tuesday. The campaigners say they want to take the tunnel to a legal review.

The government said the tunnel would cost £1.7 billion, but campaigners believe costs would actually come to £2.5 billion.

Tom Holland, the president of the Stonehenge Alliance campaign group, said: "Whether they’re stuck in a groove or obduracy or it’s electoral considerations, I just don’t know, but a tunnel will inflict unspeakable damage on Britain’s most significant prehistoric landscape."

Stonehenge's status as a UNESCO world heritage site could also be at risk if the tunnel is built.

Protesters in the previous court battle in 2021
Protesters in the previous court battle in 2021. Picture: Alamy

Mr Holland told the Guardian that that would be "not only... humiliating for Britain but disastrous for world heritage sites across the world. If a wealthy country like Britain trashes their world heritage sites, it bodes badly for the rest of the world.

"I just hope the high court will save them blowing £2.5bn they don’t really have."

John Adams, the group's chair, said the legal challenge was "David and Goliath stuff".

"We’re up against the might of the Department for Transport, National Highways and so on," he said. "We’re a small organisation – mostly retired people. But the court case is critical. It’s the only thing keeping the earth diggers away".

The Department for Transport declined to comment.

Stonehenge
Stonehenge. Picture: Alamy

David Bullock, A303 Stonehenge Project Director for National Highways, said: "We acknowledge there is a clear process for any legal challenge, we are taking part in that legal process and we remain confident this scheme is the best solution for tackling a long-standing traffic bottleneck, improving journeys, bringing much needed relief to local communities and boosting the economy in the south-west, while conserving and enhancing the World Heritage Site.

“In the meantime, and following the granting of the scheme’s Development Consent Order, we are continuing to plan and make preparations for starting preliminary work and archaeology fieldwork on site in 2024.”

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

Exclusive
Barnaby Webber's mother hit out at police who shared details about on her son's death

Nottingham attack victim's mother 'horrified' at 'abhorrent voyeurism' after police share graphic details of dead son

Israeli soldiers drive a tank near the Gaza Strip border, in southern Israel (Tsafrir Abayov/AP)

Israeli strikes across Gaza kill at least 67 Palestinians overnight

Indian farmers who have been protesting for a week to demand guaranteed crop prices wait to march to New Delhi (Altaf Qadri/AP)

Police fire tear gas as Indian farmers resume protest march after talks fail

Alec Baldwin-Set Shooting

Rust armourer set to go on trial after fatal shooting by Alec Baldwin

Ewen MacIntosh has died aged 50

Ricky Gervais leads tributes to Keith from The Office as Ewen MacIntosh dies aged 50

Exclusive
An LBC investigation has found 745 prison officers resigned before completing 12 months as qualified staff.

Hundreds of prison officers quit within one year as prison service operates 'fanciful' Zoom recruitment process

Police are attempting to track down these two men

Woman dragged down London bus steps and assaulted after she and her friends reject advances of two men

Emily Lockley died after giving birth to her baby with Tyler Collinson

Tragedy as 'totally healthy woman', 26, who dreamed of being a mother, 'died just hours after giving birth to baby boy'

A portrait of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny left in tribute to him by his mother Lyudmila Navalnaya (AP)

Alexei Navalny’s mother launches court action demanding release of his body

Robin Windsor was 'found dead in a London hotel'

Strictly star Robin Windsor 'was found dead in hotel in London' after 'troubling incident' over New Year

Pablo Neruda sits in Paris in October 1971 (Michel Lipchitz/AP)

Death of poet Pablo Neruda after 1973 coup should be reinvestigated, court rules

Exclusive
Victoria Atkins said Martha's Rule would be 'a second pair of eyes'

‘It should be easier to ask for help’: Health Secretary says Martha’s Rule is a 'step forward for patient safety'

Ezedi's body was found as it emerged the victim had lost sight in one eye

Clapham attack victim loses sight in one eye as friends plead for donations to help 'very long' road to recovery

Charlotte Cox and Michael Cartlidge are locked in a dispute over the money

Boyfriend demanding half £1m lotto prize after breakup is 'entitled to his share', says shop worker who sold scratchcard

Alexei Navalny died in an Arctic prison

Alexei Navalny 'killed with KGB punch to the heart' after being forced to spend hours outside in freezing temperatures

Australia China Writer

China-born Australian democracy blogger decides against appealing death sentence