Stonehenge tunnel ruled unlawful by high court

Campaigners have won a high court battle to prevent a tunnel being built next to Stonehenge. The government backed the 1.7bn scheme to build a two-mile tunnel, the aim was to reduce A303 congestion.

It was ruled on Friday that Grant Shapps, the transport secretary had acted irrationally when the project was approved. The court found that his decision making was “unlawful” on two occasions.

The judge found there was a “material error of law” in the government’s decision-making process and he also said Mr Shapps had failed to consider alternative schemes, which the law requires him to do.

“In this case the relative merits of the alternative tunnel options compared to the western cutting and portals were an obviously material consideration which the (transport secretary) was required to assess.

“It was irrational not to do so. This was not merely a relevant consideration which the (transport secretary) could choose whether or not to take it into account.

“I reach this conclusion for a number of reasons, the cumulative effect of which I judge to be overwhelming.”

This ruling comes after Save Stonehenge world heritage site crowfunded £50.000 at the end of 2020 to bring the legal action. Campaigners said the court ruling “should be a wake-up call for the government”

They said: “We could not be more pleased about the outcome of the legal challenge. The Stonehenge Alliance has campaigned from the start for a longer tunnel if a tunnel should be considered necessary.”

“Ideally, such a tunnel would begin and end outside the world heritage site. But now that we are facing a climate emergency, it is all the more important that this ruling should be a wake-up call for the government”

Shapps had overruled the recommendation of planning inspectors who had warned the plan to overhaul eight miles of the A303 would cause “permanent, irreversible harm” to Stonehenge in Wiltshire.

Once the ruling was made, the site’s managers Historic England said it was a “missed opportunity to remove the intrusive sight and sound of traffic past the iconic monument and to reunite the remarkable Stonehenge landscape, which has been severed in two by the busy A303 trunk road for decades”.

It is now a matter of time to wait and see what the department for transport will come up with next.

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