THIS week marks another important step in the consultation process around the A303 tunnel past Stonehenge, as a delegation from UNESCO and ICOMOS, the international council on monuments and sites, visits to scrutinise the latest proposals.

As a World Heritage Site, what happens in the vicinity of Stonehenge is not just a matter for this country but will inevitably also be the subject of international interest.

I appeared before a similar panel, long before a preferred route was chosen, and I will be interested to see how the latest proposals are received. This time, my schedule sadly precludes me from appearing in person but I will be doing so via video.

Meanwhile, the process of collecting feedback from road users, residents and stakeholders closer to home continues.

As I have often said, I have no ideological allegiance to a tunnel – but a deep and long tunnel is the only solution that will satisfy the mainstream heritage community, which ardently opposes any additional overland road building or shallow tunnelling.

I am mindful that, realistically, if we do not build a tunnel, the alternative will be to build nothing at all – an option that is rejected by the communities blighted by the problems on the existing A303. The proposed tunnel will pass below the level at which sensitive archaeology is to be found and minimise damage to the World Heritage Site, resulting in a significant net improvement, in conservation terms, on the road that is there today. Indeed, it is highly questionable whether, were the decision being made today, any surface route through the World Heritage site would get the go-ahead.

Although the Stonehenge tunnel will be funded from the national strategic roads network budget, not diverting a penny from local roads, I do not forget that it was local campaigners who played a significant part in getting it back onto the government’s radar.

The tunnel will result in tangible improvements to the quality of life for numerous constituents, particularly in Shrewton and Winterbourne Stoke. As traffic looks for alternative routes to avoid tailbacks on the main road, these and other villages have suffered years of rat running and congestion, damaging community life and increasing air pollution.

I am pleased that Highways England has already taken on board feedback. The route has been altered to take into account the winter solstice view from Stonehenge, and the evolving plans now include the construction of a series of green bridges to reconnect existing wildlife habitats – both very welcome changes.