THE only solution to the traffic problems at Stonehenge should be the 2.1km, £510m tunnel the council's cabinet agreed this week.

In a bid to move the debate forward, councillors firmly backed the bored tunnel and removed their support for the cheaper but potentially more environmentally damaging, cut-and-cover tunnel, which has long been identified as Plan B.

The row over the future of the World Heritage site sparked again in January, when the government launched another consultation period, after the cost of the tunnel more than doubled.

Councillors who were asked to look at the options yet again, more than two years after a lengthy and costly public inquiry, found it hard to hide their frustration.

Environment and transport portfolio holder Dennis Brown said: "What we have is consultation overload. We are waiting to see some action from the government to resolve this once and for all, but I'm not holding my breath."

Labour councillor Steve Fear told the meeting: "I am bitterly disappointed by the government.

"This is a site of international importance and the only scheme that is appropriate is the tunnel.

"All the other options have been looked at and not one of them meets the bill."

In an interview with the Journal last year, transport minister Dr Stephen Ladyman said the tunnel would not be built unless a way could be found to "dig it for half the price".

However, English Heritage, which looks after the ancient monument, remains adamant that the tunnel is the only way to restore the historic landscape and protect the stones.

Councillors noted that they were not being given the option of an overland dual carriageway, which was popular with many local people.

The meeting heard that motorists would resent losing their view of the stones, which has been called the "gateway to the west country".

Deputy leader of the council Fred Westmoreland came up with an alternative scheme that would involve replacing the roundabout at Countess Road Amesbury, closing the A344 and providing a bypass for Winterbourne Stoke leaving the rest of the A303 untouched.

"Yes, it would narrow to one lane, but it's the roundabout that causes the delays, and there are other single carriageway sections of the A303," he said.

"What's the rush? Stonehenge has been there for 5,000 years.

"Maybe, in a few years' time, new technology will have been developed to find a way without destroying the archaeology forever, but in the meantime a partial solution is the only option."

But his cabinet colleagues, who were only faced with limited options, voted to back the tunnel, agreeing that supporting one option would send a clear message to the government.

Mr Brown added: "None of the options, apart from the tunnel, meets the aims of the project."