Plans for Controversial Stonehenge Tunnel Approved

Though one expert says no work is likely to start any time soon
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 17, 2023 2:00 AM CDT
Plans for Controversial Stonehenge Tunnel Approved
Revelers gather at the ancient stone circle Stonehenge to celebrate the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, near Salisbury, England, Wednesday, June 21, 2023.   (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Plans for a contentious and long-delayed road tunnel near Stonehenge were approved Friday. The UK transport secretary gave the OK to the $2.2 billion plan to widen roads around the ancient site and build a 2-mile tunnel aimed at reducing traffic on England's A303 road, the Guardian and the BBC report. Planning inspectors had previously warned the work would do "permanent, irreversible harm" to the UNESCO world heritage site, but despite their recommendation against it, it was approved in 2020 by the then-transport secretary before concerned residents campaigned against the idea and the High Court overturned the approval over worries about potential impacts to the prehistoric site.

The A303 is a major road connecting London to southwest England, and the work will see eight miles of it rebuilt. Even conservationists are split on whether the overhaul will do more harm than good, and the Save Stonehenge World Heritage Site campaign, which spearheaded the last legal challenge, could launch another. A six-week review period is currently in place, and the director of a nonprofit that studies the impacts of roads says that even were it not for the potential of more legal challenges, it will likely take time for the government to get funding in place. (More Stonehenge stories.)

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