WORK on a controversial scheme to build a tunnel under the world-famous Stonehenge site could start as soon as 2021, bosses have revealed.

It comes after plans for the A303 have now started to be combed through as part of a six month review.

Highways England, which is leading the project, says it is a “major milestone” for the A303 Amesbury to Berwick Down project.

The £1.6billion proposals for the A303 include building a two-mile dual carriageway tunnel as it passes the World Heritage Site.

A preliminary meeting was held by the planning inspectorate on Tuesday which kick-starts the six month process where the scheme will be examined by a panel of inspectors.

David Bullock, the project manager for the A303 Stonehenge scheme, said: “We have hit a major milestone. We are just commencing the examination process.”

Explaining the examination process, Mr Bullock, said: “It provides an opportunity for the planning inspector to ask certain detail of the scheme that we have submitted to drill into key aspects.

“Also key to it is it provides an open forum for people and organisations and the general public to raise their questions and find out more. They can do that with this planning process.”

The scheme runs from Countess roundabout to Winterbourne Stoke with a tunnel that the World Heritage site.

There would also be a bypass around Winterbourne Stoke.

Mr Bullock said: “The whole scheme has evolved from when we went through the preferred route announcement into undertaking public consultation, we have refined the scheme. Taking on people’s views, taking on the views of statutory consultees, all the heritage bodies, to then get to a point in October to submit a compliant proposal to the planning inspectorate that tries to balance all of the needs and requirements of all those different organisations and public bodies and members of the public as well.”

Future hearings will be held exploring different elements of the project, which will be open to the public.

The planning inspectors said once they have examined the scheme it will make recommendations and produce a report. This will then need to be signed off by the Secretary of State.

Kate Fielden, speaking for the Stonehenge Alliance, said: “The minor tweaks that Highways England have made to their plans do not lessen the truly shocking impact major road and tunnel engineering will have on this famous World Heritage Site.”

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