UK Campaigners Lose Legal Bid to Stop Construction of Tunnel Near Stonehenge

British activists have lost a legal challenge to stop the construction of a two-mile tunnel that they say would pass perilously close to Stonehenge. 

The Save Stonehenge World Heritage Site campaigners—a group comprising druids, archaeologists, urban planners, and scientists—have cited expert assessments that warned of “permanent and irreversible damage” to the ancient stone circle, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1986. 

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However, in a 50-page ruling, a High Court judge wrote that UK ministers had “rightly focused on the relevant policies” and the assessments provide “no basis for undermining that conclusion.” Judge David Holgate continued that parts of the campaigners’ claims, which center on the potential environmental impact of the plan, were “unarguable.”

The £1.7 billion proposal was approved earlier this year by Mark Harper, the UK’s transport security head, and is being managed by a UK government agency called National Highways. The scheme would reroute the A303 road, which runs parallel to the ancient stone circle in Wiltshire, and transform it into a divided highway. The existing A303 road would be transformed into a public walkway.

In 2019, UNESCO, the cultural arm of the United Nations, announced its opposition to the proposal, saying that the new tunnel will have an “adverse impact” on the ancient stone circle. Repeated requests to the UK State Party to have the plans modified have been rebuked, however, and last year, UNESCO added Stonehenge for the first time to its list of endangered World Heritage sites. 


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