PLANS to build a tunnel near Stonehenge for the A303 - costing around £1.7billion - have been approved by the Transport Secretary. 

It comes after almost 30 years of discussions of how to improve traffic in the area, with proposals first submitted in 1991. 

The decision to build a two-mile (3.2km) tunnel out of sight of the monument goes against the recommendations of planning officials.

But the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, said in his decision letter he is satisfied that there is a clear need case for the development and considers that the benefits identified weigh significantly in favour of it.

The Planning Inspectorate had recommended Transport Secretary Grant Shapps withhold consent, warning it would cause "permanent, irreversible harm" to the World Heritage site.

When will work start?

Fieldwork is due to start in late spring next year, with the main five-year construction phase expected to start by 2023.

What does the work include?

The £1.7 billion A303 Amesbury to Berwick Down upgrade includes:
• eight miles of free-flowing, high-quality dual carriageway
• a tunnel at least two miles long underneath the World Heritage Site, closely following the existing A303 route, but a further 50 metres away from the Stonehenge monument, avoiding important archaeological sites, and avoiding intrusion on the view of the setting sun from the stones during the winter solstice
• a new bypass to the north of the village of Winterbourne Stoke
• junctions with the A345 and A360 either side of the World Heritage Site.

What are they saying?


MP for Salisbury, John Glen, said he is "absolutely delighted" the project has received the green light. 

In a series of tweets, he added: "During the construction phase, there will undoubtedly be some upheaval for local people, but I will be working to make sure that Highways England and partners do everything they can to mitigate disruption.

"Once completed, visitors to Stonehenge will be able to enjoy visiting our world-famous stones against a backdrop unspoilt by traffic on the A303. Major projects like this always generate controversy but I'm optimistic it will deliver something of which we can all be proud."

Highways England also welcomed the decision.

Chief Executive Jim O’Sullivan said: “The A303 Stonehenge tunnel project is part of the biggest investment in our road network for a generation and we welcome the Secretary of State’s decision.

"This transformational scheme will return the Stonehenge landscape towards its original setting and will improve journey times for everyone who travels to and from the south west.”

English Heritage’s Chief Executive, Kate Mavor, said: “This is a landmark day for Stonehenge. We’ve already seen the enormous improvement brought about by removing the A344 and the old visitor facilities from beside the stones.

"Placing the noisy and intrusive A303 within a tunnel will reunite Stonehenge with the surrounding prehistoric landscape and help future generations to better understand and appreciate this wonder of the world.”


The Stonehenge Alliance says it "deeply regrets a decision that will send shock messages around the world. It will breach UK’s international treaty obligation not to damage the WHS."

The Secretary of State is "satisfied this would not lead to the UK being in breach of its WHC obligations."

Long term critic of the plans, and President of the Salisbury Chamber of Commerce, Andy Rhind-Tutt, tweeted to say the tunnel will be "the most monumental waste of money on a scheme that will not serve purpose in any sense." 

In case you were thinking this was the end of this almost 30-year saga, the decision can yet go to a Judicial Review (a bit like for the planning application at Old Sarum Airfield).

What's next?

At the end of the decision letter, it states: "Under section 118 of the Planning Act 2008, a DCO granting development consent, or anything done, or omitted to be done, by the Secretary of State in relation to an application for such a DCO, can be challenged only by means of a claim for judicial review.

"A claim for judicial review must be made to the High Court during the period of 6 weeks beginning with the day after the day on which the statement of reasons (decision letter) is published."

For all the information and details on the plans, go to the Planning Inspectorate website by clicking here