The launch of today’s consultation on upgrades to the A303 at Stonehenge, including a bypass for Winterbourne Stoke, is very welcome news.
Local people will be all too aware that the A303 is a barrier to growth in the south west. We are now one step closer to resolving years of traffic jams, delays and accidents that have blighted the surrounding villages. I pay tribute to those who have campaigned for many years, including Councillor Ian West and the Stonehenge Traffic Action Group (STAG).
However, improving the A303 has always been about far more than economic growth. This proposal offers a chance to finally do justice to the priceless World Heritage Asset that is Stonehenge by burying the dual carriageway in a 1.8 mile deep bored tunnel.
A great deal of analysis of various options has been done to reach this point, and the tunnel remains firmly supported by both English Heritage and the National Trust. The Council for British Archaeologists have also said that ‘a long bored tunnel is the best means of achieving environmental gain while reconciling a majority of all demands and needs’.
This is an unparalleled opportunity for us to reunite the northern monuments with the southern part of the landscape, and the £1.3 billion that the Government has committed to the project remains the single biggest investment in our heritage to date.
Nevertheless, reducing congestion wherever it is a problem remains a key priority and the fact that we are making real progress in the north of Salisbury constituency will not change my commitment to improvements to the A36 and the alleviation of congestion and air pollution in the city.
There will be a number of sessions where constituents can see the plans out for consultation and express their views (and details are online here - http://roads.highways.gov.uk/projects/a303-stonehenge-amesbury-and-berwick-down/). It is important to emphasise that this is the first of several phases. There is still a great deal of technical work to be done as it is crucial we get this scheme right, and I look forward to contributing to these discussions in the coming years.