THE Stonehenge Alliance has called for the A303 Stonehenge Expressway Scheme to be scrapped, in an open letter to the Secretary of State for Transport.

The letter to Grant Shapps says that the Alliance “oppose the highly damaging A303 Stonehenge Expressway Scheme which is heavily criticised by UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee”.

It goes on to say: “The Scheme offers very poor value for money, and it would cause significant harm to the World Heritage Site, and poses a high risk in proposing to tunnel through weak Phosphatic Chalk.”

The potential A303 Amesbury to Berwick Down scheme proposes to construct a new section of dual carriageway - in a tunnel - on the A303 between Countess roundabout and the dual carriageway section to the west of Winterbourne Stoke.

The Alliance also warns that “the unreliable nature of the soft phosphatic chalk ground rock, along with unknown problems with groundwater, risks major delays in tunnelling and cost overruns - presumably to be borne by the public purse.”

The main concerns highlighted in the letter are value for money, cost overruns, international commitments, and climate change - if built, the Alliance estimates the extra speed and volume of traffic created would have a high carbon impact, “assigned a negative value of £86 million by Highways England”.

The letter also claims that, should the scheme go ahead as proposed, not only would the UK government be in breach of its International World Heritage Convention obligations, but “there is also a strong possibility that Stonehenge’s World Heritage status would be withdrawn.”

It adds: “Cultural vandalism on such a scale at this iconic heritage site would inevitably bring international disgrace.”

In conclusion, the letter says: “The scheme is very expensive, carries a high risk of unforeseen problems and cost overruns, would cost far more than it could ever realise in benefits and would cause significant damage to the World Heritage Site, possibly placing its UNESCO designation in jeopardy.

“Failure to provide a Strategic Environmental Assessment of upgrading the Stonehenge section along with other intended A303 upgrades has denied the public true understanding of the full impact of these schemes and, indeed, of more sustainable possible alternatives.

A final decision on the tunnel will be made within three months.

It comes after the Planning Inspectorate announced it has made its recommendation to the Transport Secretary, following the six month inquiry.

The public hearing took place between April and October last year, and saw a leading archaeology professor claim the tunnel plans would mean the loss of “over half a million” prehistoric artefacts within the World Heritage Site, should plans go ahead.

Professor Mike Parker Pearson, who is professor of British Prehistory at University College London, claimed in June that artefacts “would be bulldozed without record or recovery by the proposed strategy”, adding “this is an unacceptable level of damage to the resources and loss of information about Stonehenge’s prehistoric past”.

The Examining Authority issued a Recommendation Report to the Secretary of State on January 2, 2020. The Secretary of State has three months in which to issue a decision, so can be expected no later than Thursday, April 2.