DIGGERS at the site of the proposed A303 tunnel near Stonehenge have been “fact finding” and not starting construction, Highways England has said.

The sight of the earth-moving machines weeks before the end of a public consultation on the scheme prompted some anti- tunnel campaigners to brand it a “done deal”.

The vehicles were seen moving in to the portal site on Wednesday, January 18.

Dr Kate Fielden from The Stonehenge Alliance told the BBC: “Highways England is pursuing this scheme before they’ve even finished the archaeological excavation – it’s like a done deal.

“It would have been nice to have a full account of the work being undertaken, its results and investigations.”

The A303 passes 165 metres from the stones and the alliance is concerned by the impact of the tunnel on the surrounding landscape.

Dr Fielden added: “Most worrying of all is the location, it is right below the ancient avenue which is a key feature of the pre-designed prehistoric landscape.

“It’s a Philistine way of treating the landscape.”

An archaeological team from the University of Buckingham have been working at nearby Blick Mead since 2005.

Team leader Dr David Jacques told the BBC: “There’s no sense of balance in this consultation. It seems to be simply Highways England explaining what they are going to do.

“They are putting a lot of energy into this but Blick Mead and the local landowners have yet to be invited into the consultation process.”

Highways England said the diggers were taking part in “fact-finding work and not construction”.

“We are undertaking geotechnical and archaeological surveys in and around the Stonehenge World Heritage Site.

“These will add to the evolving knowledge and understanding of this unique landscape and help us identify any issues when taking forward options for detailed assessment and design.”

A public consultation comes to Salisbury Guildhall on Saturday.

Andy Rhind-Tutt, former Mayor of Amesbury, said he was appalled by the “blatant ignorance” shown by Highways England and the government.