The UK Secretary of State for Transport, The Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP, has announced that he has decided to defer his decision about the development consent order application for the A303 upgrade which includes the 3.2km long Stonehenge Tunnel until November following a recent archaeological find at Durrington.
This find is in the north east corner of the World Heritage Site, well outside the scheme boundary and at its closest point half a kilometre north of the planned A303 upgrade past Stonehenge.
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Shapps said, “This statement concerns the application made under the Planning Act 2008 for the proposed construction by Highways England of a new two-lane dual carriageway for the A303 between Amesbury and Berwick Down in Wiltshire (also known as the ‘A303 Stonehenge’ application.
Under sub-section 107(1) of the Planning Act 2008, the Secretary of State must make his decision within 3 months of receipt of the Examining Authority’s report unless exercising the power under sub-section 107(3) to extend the deadline and make a Statement to the House of Parliament announcing the new deadline. The Secretary of State received the Examining Authority’s report on the A303 Amesbury to Berwick Down Development Consent Order application on 2 January 2020 and the deadline for a decision was previously extended from 2 April 2020 to 17 July 2020 to allow for further work to be carried out.
Following notification of a recent archaeological find within the World Heritage Site, the deadline for the decision is to be further extended to 13 November 2020 (an extension of 4 months) to enable further consultation on and consideration of this matter before determination of the application by the Secretary of State.
The decision to set a new deadline is without prejudice to the decision on whether to give development consent.
Highways England responded, “We are confident that the proposed scheme presents the best solution for tackling a longstanding bottleneck on this section of the A303, creating more reliable journeys, while returning the Stonehenge landscape to something like its original setting and helping to boost the south west economy.”