Highways England has said it is proceeding with its plans to dig a tunnel near Stonehenge, despite the high court declaring the £ 1.7bn plan illegal.
The state-owned company said it would continue to designate construction contracts to ensure the acquisition process went according to schedule, although it has halted plans for preparatory work while the Department of Transportation “considers its options.”
Activists, including archaeologists, environmental groups and druids, won a battle in a high court on Friday to stop the controversial A303 project in Wiltshire, next to the prehistoric monument.
Judge Holgate ruled that Grant Shapps, the transportation secretary, acted irrationally and illegally when he approved the project. The DfT could still appeal against the decision.
When asked if he planned to appeal, a DfT spokesman said last week: “We are disappointed with the sentence and are considering it carefully before deciding how to proceed.”
David Bullock, project manager of the plan for Highways England, said Wednesday that “the acquisition process is very active.”
He said: “We have to wait while the Department of Transportation considers its options and in the meantime we continue the process to appoint a contractor for the major works phase of the scheme.
“We have now halted our plans to carry out early preparatory work, but the procurement process is very active to ensure that we maintain the program timelines in the best possible way.”
He said they still believed the project was the “best solution to current problems along the A303 past Stonehenge” and that it was developed after “long and extensive collaboration” with stakeholders.
He added: “We are still highly motivated to leave a legacy beyond the road, for Stonehenge, the world heritage site, our local communities and future generations.”
Archaeological fieldwork and preliminary works that were originally planned to begin this summer have been postponed.
But three offers have been submitted for the project, with the company expected to announce its choice in early 2022, and will be awarded a £ 60 million contract later this year to support the management of construction work.
Shapps gave the green light to the project, which includes an eight-mile overhaul of the A303 and a two-mile tunnel, in November, despite advice from the Planning Inspectorate that it would cause “permanent and irreversible damage” to the heritage site. Unesco World Cup. .
Save Stonehenge World Heritage Site challenged the decision in high court and won.
Holgate said there was a “material error of law” in the decision-making process because there was no evidence of impact on each individual asset at the site. Shapps’ failure to consider other schemes was, he said, a violation of the world heritage convention and customary law.
Professor David Jacques, who heads the Blick Mead archaeological project, which has made finds that help tell the story of how ancient humans lived at the Stonehenge site since the ice age, said: “I suspect the roads are getting expensive of brave. It would be better if they admitted the fact that they and the government acted illegally and irrationally to push this vain project that would have caused proven damage to one of the world’s major heritage sites.
Instead, they are both choosing to save face by continuing to waste money on a scheme that has been completely discredited by all impartial planning judges. The decision to reduce international aid, for example, but to go ahead with feeding this white elephant is a disgrace and will continue to damage Britain’s moral authority in the world. “
Finds at Blick Mead have included perfectly preserved wild cattle hoof prints, known as uros, a mile and a half from the stone circle.
DfT has been contacted for comment.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism