Shapps to ‘re-determine’ Stonehenge Tunnel planning decision after High Court loss

Transport secretary Grant Shapps must “re-determine” his decision on Highways England’s planning application for the Stonehenge Tunnel after a High Court judge ruled his original decision to approve the scheme as “unlawful”.

A statement released by the Planning Inspectorate adds that the original planning approval has been “quashed” following the High Court ruling.

It adds that “the Secretary of State must now re-determine that application”. More details about the re-determination process will be released in “due course”.

In re-determining the application, Shapps will likely need to consider the impact of the scheme on World Heritage assets as well as exploring alternative options such as a longer tunnel.

The hearing to scrutinise the planning approval of the £1.7bn road scheme took place last month, with the legal challenge brought by campaign group Save Stonehenge World Heritage Site (SSWHS).

At the end of June, Mr Justice Holgate ruled that the planning approval was unlawful.

He said that Shapps had not properly assessed the risk of harm to each heritage asset within the World Heritage Site (WHS).

He also found that Shapps did not have the evidence to conclude that the project would cause “less than substantial harm” to the heritage assets within the WHS, which he deemed fatal to the lawfulness of the decision to grant development consent.

The judge further concluded that Shapps had failed to consider alternatives to the scheme, such as a longer tunnel, which may have been less damaging to the WHS. This was despite the World Heritage Committee raising alternatives as a vitally important issue in relation to a heritage asset of international importance.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps had previously given the scheme the go ahead in November, overruling planning officials who said the project would cause “substantial harm” to the Stonehenge site.

Following the court decision, Highways England has vowed to continue the procurement process for the scheme.

Three bids to carry out the work have been submitted, and Highways England is expected to announce its choice of contractor early next year.

A separate £60M contract is due to be awarded late this year for supporting the management of the construction work.

(Credit: Rob Horgan.

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