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Controversial plans for the A303 near Stonehenge have been released by the Department for Transport.
Following public consultation, and backed by English Heritage, The National Trust and Historic England, the plans see part of the route moved to ensure views from Stonehenge are not interrupted.
The £1.6Bn investment will create the ‘South West Expressway’, linking the M3 in the south east and the M5 in the south west. The expressway has been designed to improve journey times on this key route for millions of people. Currently the route can become very congested and nearby villages suffer from ‘rat run’ status at peak times. It is hoped that the new route will provide relief for commuters and local residents, whilst also preserving, and enhancing, the views from this Unesco World Heritage site.
The planned route, published by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, sees the construction of a tunnel near Stonehenge, which will remove the traffic blight on local communities and enhance the famous landmark.
By removing the path of the A303 from the landscape, the 6,500acre historic site will be reconnected, and both the sight and sound of traffic will be removed from the Stonehenge landscape.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “This government is taking the big decisions for Britain’s future and this major investment in the south-west will provide a huge boost for the region.
“Quicker journey times, reduced congestion and cleaner air will benefit people locally and unlock growth in the tourism industry.
“The scheme will also support 120,000 extra jobs and 100,000 new homes across the region, helping us build a country that works for everyone.”
The upgrade, which will take in the route between Amesbury and Berwick Down, includes the 1.8 mile tunnel, dual carriageway and bypass for Winterbourne Stoke.
Highways England chief executive Jim O’Sullivan said: “The A303 and the World Heritage site has suffered from congestion for many years. This scheme will enhance, protect and restore tranquillity to one of the UK’s most iconic landscapes.
“We have listened to feedback from consultation and believe this preferred route will help improve traffic flow, reduce rat-running on the surrounding roads, bringing improvements to local communities and benefits to the south-west economy.”
The plans have been modified already with the entrance to the tunnel moved to avoid conflicting with the solstice alignment. The route ensures the Stonehenge World Heritage site will be protected and enhanced for people from across the world to enjoy.
The upgrade is a key part of the government’s £15Bn road strategy, the biggest investment in roads in a generation. The preferred route includes:
- eight miles of free-flowing, high-quality dual carriageway
- a tunnel underneath the World Heritage site, closely following the existing A303 route, but a further 50m away from the monument
- a new bypass to the north of the village of Winterbourne Stoke
- junctions with the A345 and A360 either side of the World Heritage site.
The upgrade is proving controversial though, with the Stonehenge Alliance and Campaign for Better Transport saying the project needs a “complete re-think”
A spokesperson said: “The potential risk of loss of Stonehenge’s World Heritage Status casts shame upon our country and those responsible for caring for our heritage.”
Sir Tony Robinson has said the project is: “the most brutal intrusion into the Stone Age landscape ever”.
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