Highways England has launched a consultation on its plans for the A303 at Stonehenge, including ‘green bridges’, grassed canopies at the portals and the conversion of the existing road into a route for walking, cycling and horse riding.
As well as a twin-bore tunnel at least 1.8 miles (2.9 kilometres) long past Stonehenge, Highways England’s £1.6bn plans for the A303 include changes to the layout of the road on the surface at either end.
In the foreword to the consultation document, Derek Parody, Highways England’s A303 Stonehenge Project Director, wrote: ‘Removing the traffic bottleneck past Stonehenge will improve connectivity and help open up the South West, unlocking economic and social benefits for the region.’
He added: ‘Reconnecting the iconic Stones with surrounding ancient monuments will help restore the natural setting and tranquillity lost for generations.’
However, the fact that both both portals would be within the Stonehenge World Heritage Site (WHS) has continued to cause controversy.
The Stonehenge Alliance, which campaigns against the project, said that it was ‘shocked by Highways England’s continuing plans for major and irreversible harm to the UNESCO Stonehenge World Heritage Site’.
In a statement, it said: ‘However well-designed, the devastating impact of this road engineering would destroy archaeology and deeply scar this iconic landscape and its setting for ever.’
Kate Fielden, vice chairman of Rescue, said: ‘Our Government proposes to spend £1.6bn trashing one World Heritage Site while planning to spend about double that sum restoring another. Stonehenge and the Houses of Parliament should both receive best treatment.’
Highways England said its preferred option for the approach to the western entrance to the tunnel is an eight-metre deep cutting with the deepest two thirds of the cutting formed with vertical retaining walls, with the top third formed with rolling grassed slopes to provide a softer finish for views towards the cutting.
The western entrance itself would be at a depth of 17 metres with a fully grassed-over canopy.
At the eastern entrance (pictured), with the new road rising and the existing ground levels dropping quickly, there is limited opportunity to use a canopy similar in length to that being considered at the western entrance. However, a short length of canopy is proposed.
Highways England said the portals would be close to the existing road at locations that have been thoroughly surveyed to show there are no significant buried archaeological features that would be affected by their construction.
With both portals located off the line of the existing A303, traffic would be able to keep using the existing road until the tunnel has been completed and the new road opened.
The consultation runs until Friday 6 April 2018. Because of its size, the scheme is categorised as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project, which means that a Development Consent Order is required. Highways England said it plans to submit a development consent application in the Autumn.
- a bypass to the north of Winterbourne Stoke with a viaduct over the River Till valley
- grassland habitat creation that would allow extension of the Parsonage Down National Nature Reserve
- a new junction with the A360 to the west of and outside the World Heritage Site (WHS), with the A303 passing under the junction
- a section through the WHS with a twin-bore tunnel past Stonehenge at least 1.8 miles (2.9 kilometres) long
- a new junction with the A345 at the existing Countess roundabout to
- the conversion of the existing A303 through the WHS into a route for walking, cycling and horse riding
- new ‘green bridges’ to connect existing habitats and allow the movement of wildlife, maintain existing agricultural access and provide crossings for existing and new bridleways and public footpaths