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Development consent granted for A303 Stonehenge bypass

Words: Laura Edgar

The construction of a two-lane dual carriageway for the A303 between Amesbury and Berwick Down in Wiltshire past Stonehenge World Heritage Site has been granted a development consent order (DCO) by transport secretary Grant Shapps, against the recommendation of the Planning Inspectorate.

According to Highways England’s application form, the national significant infrastructure project will be eight miles (13 kilometres) in length.  

The key elements are a northern bypass of Winterbourne Stoke with a viaduct over the River Till valley and a new junction between A303 and A360 to the west of and outside the World Heritage Site, replacing the existing Longbarrow roundabout. Also, a tunnel of about two miles (3.3km) in length would be delivered, past Stonehenge and a new junction between the A3030 and A345 at the existing Countess roundabout.

Shapp’s decision goes against the advice of the examining authority, the Planning Inspectorate. It advised withholding consent, warning that it would cause “permanent irreversible harm” and the benefits to the ‘outstanding universal value’ (OUV) “would not be capable of offsetting this harm”. The inspectorate suggested a number of modifications if the secretary of state chose to grant the DCO.

The transport secretary notes that the existing A3030, which is part of the strategic road network between London and the South West, has “acute congestion problems”.

There is, the examining authority notes, a presumption in favour of granting development consent for nationally significant plans that fall within the need for infrastructure established in the National Planning Policy Statement for National Networks (NPSNN). Objections were raised by campaigners, but Wiltshire and Devon councils supported the project, among others.

Shapps agrees with the examining authority that the development would be “in accordance with the government’s vision and strategic objectives set out in the NPSNN”. He notes that the benefits of the development include enabling visitors to Stonehenge to see the stone circle without the visual and aural distraction of road traffic.

The decision letter states: “In the secretary of state’s judgment any harm to heritage assets, including the OUV, is less than substantial and this harm (whilst carrying great weight), along with the other harms identified, are outweighed by the benefits of the development.”

Shapps therefore granted the DCO.

The transport secretary’s decision letter and all other documents relating to the development can be found on the Planning Inspectorate’s website.

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