A scheme to bury a widened dual carriageway road beneath Salisbury Plain where it passes near to Stonehenge has been approved by the government
It’s long been an irony that one of the best views of the iconic Stonehenge monument can be seen from the A303 trunk road. One of the major routes into south-west England, the A303 narrows from a dual carriageway to two-way traffic as it passes Stonehenge and the traffic queues as people slow down for a look are notorious, as is the permanent tailback at the roundabout where the narrow road starts.
Plans to widen the road have always been hampered by the proximity to the Neolithic monument and the archaeology of the area; 9.6 km² around Stonehenge is designated as an ancient monument and World Heritage Site. But a long-mooted scheme to build a tunnel to take a widened road past Stonehenge has now been approved by transport secretary Chris Grayling.
The entire scheme, costing an estimated £2bn, upgrades the A303 between the M3 and M5 motorways, and includes a seven mile stretch of new dual carriageway, of which 1.8 miles (2.9km) would be tunnelled past Stonehenge. The tunnel concept been backed by the National trust and English Heritage, joint custodians of the Stonehenge site, but remains controversial; a campaigning group, Stonehenge Alliance, believes that to avoid damaging the archaeology of the site, the tunnel would need to be 2.7 miles (4.3km) long at least, and the custodians support a tunnel “as long as possible”.
The plan is subject to a public consultation, which will run until 5 March.