WILTSHIRE Council has backed the controversial Stonehenge tunnel scheme, claiming it will "help to unlock" more than 21,000 job in the south west.

Authority chiefs also say that the £1.9 billion transformation of the A303 will boost the region's economy by £9 billion, reduce the intrusion of traffic on the ancient monument, address congestion, and end the rat run situation for local residents.

It has now called on Westminster to confirm its support for the scheme, ahead of new Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak's first budget on Wednesday – in which it hopes cash for the scheme will be included.

Councillor Bridget Wayman, Wiltshire Council highways chief, said: “We are calling on the government to issue a clear statement of intent to support this £1.9 billion scheme and deliver a huge vote of confidence that will boost the whole south west.

“Councils throughout the region are united in supporting this vital scheme that has myriad benefits for both the ancient monument and the south west’s economy.

“The scheme will improve the everyday lives of the local community, whose villages are used as rat runs, and it will also remove the single lane, bottleneck road, and create more reliable journeys for the thousands of vehicles that use the A303 as a gateway to the south west each day.

“Removing the noisy road from much of the World Heritage Site will help to restore the Stonehenge landscape and allow people to enjoy and understand the ancient stones and explore the surrounding countryside.

“The Stonehenge improvement scheme offers a golden opportunity for the government to invest in the south west’s transport network, unlocking the region’s potential and making a bold statement that the region is open for investment.”

A statement added: "An independent economic assessment commissioned by the local authorities and the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, and validated by Department for Transport (DfT) demonstrates that improving the whole A303/A30/A358 corridor would: Create 21,400 jobs and deliver a £39 billion boost to the economy; Save 1,807 fatal or serious casualties; Reduce carbon emissions by nine per cent."