A £35 MILLION contract has been awarded for work to ensure "all archaeological remains are preserved and recorded" on A303 Stonehenge scheme site.

The archaeological "protection and excavation" work will be carried out by Old Sarum-based Wessex Archaeology, Highways England has this week announced.

The A303 scheme is still awaiting a Development Consent Order (DCO), and Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps announced earlier in the summer a revised deadline for a decision to be made in November 13 following a six month Public Examination in 2019.

An £8.5 million Preliminary Works Contract has also been awarded to Osborne through its Collaborative Delivery Framework.

Highways England Project Director Derek Parody said: “The World Heritage Site (WHS) around Stonehenge is a heritage site of national and international importance and the scope of the archaeological contract announced today is unprecedented for Highways England, reflecting the importance of the WHS and surrounding landscape.

“Building on thorough evaluation work carried out before the DCO application was submitted, the archaeological mitigation strategy is being developed in consultation with specialist advisors from Historic England and Wiltshire Council, the National Trust and English Heritage, and with input from a scientific committee of independent experts.

“Wessex Archaeology have an extensive track record of work in connection with the Stonehenge landscape, we want to ensure that all archaeological remains are preserved and recorded, and we are delighted to announce that they will be undertaking this specialist work.

“The contract award in no way pre-empts the granting of a Development Consent Order and while we await the Secretary of State’s decision, we need to progress the procurement to ensure the project is in the best position it can be in to proceed thereafter.”

The archaeological mitigation contract involves archaeological evaluation and recording, ahead of and during construction work.

Caroline Budd, the chief operating officer at Wessex Archaeology, said: “Wessex Archaeology is very proud to be an ongoing part of the integrated A303 team, and we welcome the chance to be involved in such a significant road improvement scheme. This project enables us to continue our work towards the sensitive management and interpretation of one of the UK’s most important historic landscapes, and ensure that both local communities and the general public can benefit from a greater understanding of this fascinating place.”

Highways England’s proposed £1.7 billion upgrade of the A303 between Amesbury and Berwick Down includes:

  • 8 miles of dual carriageway
  • a twin-bore tunnel two miles long underneath the World Heritage Site, closely following the existing A303 route
  • a new bypass to the north of the village of Winterbourne Stoke, with a viaduct over the River Till valley

new junctions with the A345 and A360 either side of the World Heritage Site.