Highways England has pledged to further refine its plans for a tunnel at Stonehenge in response to the views of international heritage experts.
The government-owned company’s scheme to improve the A303 between Amesbury and Berwick Down includes a 1.9-mile long tunnel past Stonehenge, a free-flowing dual carriageway and a bypass north of Winterbourne Stoke.
Last month representatives of Highways England met a delegation from UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) and the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS).
The site has UNESCO World Heritage Site (WHS) status and the organisation has previously been critical of the proposals. Highways England said the aim of the three-day fact-finding mission was to explain how the designs of the proposed tunnel will bring together the WHS landscape currently split by the A303.
Derek Parody, project director for Highways England, said: ‘We were grateful to the representatives from UNESCO/ICOMOS who took time to be with us on a three-day visit to understand the scheme we are proposing. It was an excellent opportunity for us to explain how we responded to their previous recommendations and how the scheme is developing.
‘We look forward to the panel’s report in due course, which will help us further refine the scheme, as well as to all the feedback from all interested parties during the current public consultation.’
Highways England said that since the UNESCO visit last year and the announcement of the preferred route for the scheme in September it has continued to work with heritage groups and experts in the field to ensure a new route is built with sensitivity to the WHS.
It said the route was carefully chosen to avoid monuments and barrow groups, and its modified plans also include moving the position of the western entrance to the tunnel to avoid conflicting with the winter solstice alignment.
A consultation on the current proposals for the scheme has been extended until next Monday (23 April) after two information events were curtailed by severe weather last month.