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High Court Upholds Stonehenge Tunnel Construction Decision

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Campaigners opposing the building of a road tunnel close to Stonehenge have lost their High Court case, which is a noteworthy step. Plans for a tunnel along the A303 close to the historic site were disputed by the Save Stonehenge World Heritage Site (SSWHS).

The project had already been put on hold by the High Court in 2021 because to environmental concerns. But in July of the following year, the Department for Transport (DfT) gave the plans another approval. Campaigners filed a fresh lawsuit, but the court rejected it in significant part, ruling that the majority of the arguments they made were baseless.

According to National Highways, the proposed 2-kilometer tunnel would have reduced traffic congestion, shortened travel times, and lessened the visual and acoustic effects of passing cars on the Stonehenge site.

Protesters said that the authorized plan may potentially threaten the World Heritage Site’s UNESCO listing and result in the loss of substantial elements of the site. However, Mr. Justice Holgate insisted that ministers had duly taken into account pertinent policies, and the campaigners’ evidence did not disprove the ruling.

We shall deal separately with a portion of the legal challenge pertaining to the DfT’s environmental impact assessment methodology.

Arguments throughout the hearings focused on the government’s assessment of the alternatives and the allegedly faulty traffic estimate data that National Highways presented.

The government, however, stood by its position, saying that the project complies with the UK’s responsibilities under the international heritage convention and that precautions will be taken to prevent harm.

National Highways emphasized that the tunnel will improve travel efficiency and remove obtrusive traffic.

Historic England, which has been around for more than 5,000 years, expressed happiness with the court’s decision and emphasized the chance to repair the historic landscape.

The decision follows Transport Secretary Grant Shapps’ first approval of the project in 2020, even in the face of Planning Inspectorate officers’ warnings of possible irrevocable harm.

The successful challenge of Shapps’ decision by the SSWHS alliance brought attention to the ongoing discussion over how to preserve cultural assets while advancing infrastructure.

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