British politics and policy updates
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Campaigns have won a battle in the High Court to overthrow plans for a £ 1.7 billion tunnel under the old Stonehenge monument, casting doubt on the future of one of Britain’s most expensive and controversial road construction projects.
Judge Holgate on Friday ruled that the government’s decision to allow a dual carriageway and tunnel to be built through the World Heritage Site was “illegal”. The court found that Transport Secretary Grant Shapps did not properly consider alternatives to the scheme and did not consider the damage to the inheritance.
Ministers have for years hoped to alleviate the bottleneck of traffic on the A303, one of the main highways between London and the south-west of England, which runs close to the World Heritage Site on Salisbury Plain.
Shapps approved a Highways England project in November to build a new eight-mile highway in the area, with a two-mile tunnel below the area immediately surrounding the monument.
Highways England, a state-owned enterprise responsible for maintaining the country’s motorway and A-road system, argued that the enlarged road and tunnel would remove the rust of cars so close to the prehistoric standing stones, bringing back the landscape to “something like its original environment” and help the economy of the southwest.
The road construction scheme has the support of English Heritage, a charity that manages historical monuments, and the National Trust, a conservation organization, but Shapps certainly took the advice of planning inspectors, who warned that the tunnel “had an effect” on one of the most famous prehistoric monuments in Europe.
Rowan Smith, a lawyer at Leigh Day who worked for the campers, said the government needed to return to the drawing board before a new planning decision could be made.
“For now, Stonehenge is safe,” he added.
Highways England said it was still convinced that the plan was the best solution to tackle the traffic jam, but that it would wait to see the next step from the Department of Transport.
‘We are very disappointed with the decision, and we know that it will also upset many people in the local community who have been waiting for a solution for decades and all those who use the road to go to work or on holiday in the southwest, it said.
The Stonehenge Alliance, a campaign group that raised £ 80,000 to support its legal challenge, said the decision “can no longer be satisfied”, and that climate change means ministers need to reconsider their road construction plans.
The Transport Action Network’s pressure group, which has taken on challenges to stop the construction of major new roads, said the government’s entire £ 27 billion road construction strategy was beginning to “unravel”.
The British “road program” seems increasingly unsustainable in a time of climate crisis. “It increases emissions when we need quick cuts,” the group said.
The Department of Transportation said: “We are disappointed in the verdict and consider it carefully before deciding how to proceed.”