Highways England has committed to progressing the construction contracts process for the A303 upgrade and Stonehenge Tunnel scheme, despite a High Court ruling quashing the DCO for the £1.7bn project.
The government-owned company said that following a High Court ruling against transport secretary Grant Shapps’ granting of a Development Consent Order (DCO), plans for early works and archaeological fieldwork 'have now been paused'.
However, Highways England said 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.
Highways England is also procuring a Delivery Assurance Partner to help manage the delivery of the A303 Stonehenge main works contract. It is anticipated that the £60m 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.'
Archaeological fieldwork and preliminary works were scheduled to start later this summer, and a three-month closure of the A360 to enable utilities work 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.'
In other works on the A303, Highways England said in September it will also be starting work to dual a further single lane section between Sparkford and Ilchester.
The scheme will provide a three-mile dual carriageway link including new and replacement slip roads, junctions and road bridges to replace existing junctions and direct access roads.