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

Hungary's Kevin Csoboth, bottom, shoots past Scotland's goalkeeper Angus Gunn, top, during a Group A match between Scotland and Hungary at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament in Stuttgart, Germany, Sunday, June 23, 2024. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Scotland knocked out of Euro 2024 following Hungary's 100th-minute goal as collision sees star stretchered off

Elections betting scandal widens to include 'family and friends' of senior Tories

Election betting scandal widens to include 'family and friends' of senior Tories

Terror in Russia: Gunmen open fire at two synagogues killing six police before slitting priest's throat at Orthodox Church

Terror in Russia: Gunmen open fire at synagogue and Orthodox churches killing six police officers

Detective who probed Nicola Bulley offers services to Jay Slater's family as search for teen enters its second week

Investigator who probed Nicola Bulley offers services to Jay Slater's family as search targets remote buildings

M50 motorway Dublin

'Miracle' as schoolboy, 12, 'lucky to be alive' after toppling from toilet of moving coach onto motorway

Exclusive
'I just had to disappear': Carol Vorderman shares how grief led her to runaway following death of co-star Richard Whiteley

'I just had to disappear': Carol Vorderman shares how grief led her to runaway following death of Richard Whiteley

Alan Hansan

Ex-Liverpool captain Alan Hansen discharged from hospital

Manchester Airport boss apologises after 'power spike' sees mass cancellations as he gives flight status update

Flights from Manchester Airport 'expected to resume' on Sunday as travel boss apologises for mass cancellations

The highest temperatures of the summer are expected this week

Yellow heat-health alerts signal warm weather for most of England as temperatures to hit 30C

Passengers have been queuing for hours at Manchester Airport

All flights from two terminals at Manchester Airport cancelled as passengers urged not to travel

Amanda Abbington and Giovanni Pernice

Amanda Abbington forced to call police after being bombarded with death threats from troll fans of Giovanni Pernice

Exclusive
Robert Buckland has split from the PM and Home Secretary

Senior Tory splits from PM and Home Secretary as he calls for those involved in betting scandal to be suspended

James Cleverly joined LBC for Sunday with Lewis Goodall

Conservative candidate who described Rwanda policy as ‘crap’ did so to ‘shock his audience’, Home Secretary says

Jay

Jay Slater's father and brother make emotional pleas for return of the missing teenager

Michael Gove

Betting scandal as bad for Tories as Partygate, Michael Gove warns

42C heat has hit Europe this week

Extreme weather hits holiday hotspots in Europe with 42C heat and ‘meteo-tsunami’ as Brits warned before booking trip