Highways England Confident about Stonehenge Tunnel Project Despite Scepticism from Groups

The proposed tunnel for Stonehenge planned by Highways England that has been in the works in recent months has encountered some opposition from concerned groups, especially in regard to its impact on the local flow of groundwater along with its impact on historical monuments in the area.

This month, Highways England was able to launch a consultation for its planned A303 project, located between Berwick Town and Amesbury, along with a tunnel which is set to pass near Stonehenge. The tunnel will be about 2.9km in length, with depths of as much as 50m.

Highways England’s proposal for a tunnel remains a controversial issue, in part because both the tunnel portals are supposed to be located within the heritage site itself.

Concerns from some relevant groups

Some groups and individuals, such as the Heritage Trust and Amesbury Museum’s chairman, Andy Rhind-Tutt, have expressed concerns about the impact of a tunnel on Blick Mead, a preserved site which goes back to 8000 B.C., and Salisbury Cathedral. According to Mr. Rhind-Tutt, who also served as Amesbury’s mayor in previous years, Stonehenge is located on an aquifer of chalkland, which means that the rain landing on the site will travel southwards towards the River Avon. But if a tunnel is constructed, especially at a depth between 16 metres and 50 metres, this could have an impact on the flow of the groundwater, as was seen in the 1960s when the A303 was built, which resulted in a change to the Blick Mead water table.

Along with all the other documents that were published for the project, a document called the PEIR, or the Preliminary Environmental Information Report, states that whilst a good construction environmental management plan will help prevent the project from having adverse effects, the document still suggests that the situation is more complex, and Highways England may still not have concrete answers to all the questions.

Highways England remains positive

According to a spokesperson from Highways England, however, the issues which have been set out are a mixture of issues from the Environment Agency as well as certain statutory requirements, and that experts will determine the acceptability and significance of the effects based on a consultation and assessment with the Environment Agency.

A WFD (Water Framework Directive) Assessment is planned, however, and an assessment report on WFD compliance will also be produced. The report will focus on the impact of the scheme on the Water Framework Directive of the River Avon, the Upper Hampshire Avon body of groundwater, and the River Till.

Highways England remains confident that any assessment will not be able to identify any negative impact which cannot be alleviated or mitigated. Highways England stated that it will make sure that, whatever happens, it will be Water Framework Directive compliant.