Highways England has reiterated its commitment to progressing the construction of the A303 bypass near Stonehenge, after last week’s High Court ruling against Transport Secretary’s granting of permission for the scheme.
Last week Mr Justice Holgate quashed Highways England’s development consent order for Highways England’s £1.7bn tunnel, ruling Grant Shapps had not received a sufficient briefing on the scheme’s heritage impact near the ancient site. He ruled Mr Shapps also failed to consider alternative proposals for the tunnel, including one to extend it further westwards.
Highways England says it will be working to advance the procurement process in the coming months.Three bids have now been submitted for the tunnel and main works contract and the preferred bidder is expected to be announced in early 2022.
Meanwhile, Highways England is also procuring a Delivery Assurance Partner to support in managing the delivery of the A303 Stonehenge main works contract. It is anticipated that the £60 million contract will be awarded late this year.
David Bullock, Highways England’s Project Manager for the A303 Stonehenge scheme, said: “We have to wait while the Department for Transport considers its options, and in the meantime we are continuing with the process to appoint a contractor for the main works phase of the scheme.
“We have now paused our plans to carry out early, preparatory work, but the procurement process is very much live, to ensure we maintain programme timescales as best as possible.
“We still believe our project is the best solution to the ongoing issues along the A303 past Stonehenge, it has been developed after a long and extensive collaboration with our key stakeholders, and we are still very much motivated to leave a legacy beyond the road – for Stonehenge, the World Heritage Site, our local communities and future generations.”
Highways England says archaeological fieldwork and preliminary works had been scheduled to start later this summer, while a temporary, three-month closure of the A360 to enable utilities work – earmarked to start in September – has also been postponed.
Mr Bullock added, “In terms of our initial work, we plan to update local communities via a virtual public information event when we know a little more, and in the interim we are continuing to communicate our plans with all stakeholders and interested parties.”
Elsewhere along the A303, Highways England will also be starting work in September to dual a further single lane section between Sparkford and Ilchester.
The scheme, further west on the A303 in Somerset, will provide a high-quality three-mile dual carriageway link, including new and replacement slip roads, junctions and road bridges to replace existing junctions and direct access roads.
(Picture – Gov.uk)