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Stonehenge: A brief look at the implications of the High Court judgement

Annabelle Sanderson
By Annabelle Sanderson
10th August 2021

Following the judgement of the High Court on the expansion of the A303, we have written an update for all those following the case and wishing to stay involved in the next stages of the process.

The judge found the Transport Secretary’s decision to grant the Development Consent Order (DCO) unlawful on two grounds. He had not assessed the impact of the scheme on each heritage asset individually, as required under the National Planning Policy for National Networks, since he did not have all the information he needed for that exercise.

He had also left out of account the existence of alternative proposals which were an “obviously material” consideration, notably in view of his finding that the impact on the outstanding universal value of the World Heritage Site (WHS) would be “significantly adverse”. The harm that the western cutting would do had been highlighted by UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee.  

The Secretary of State is presumably considering his options. He could make an application for permission to appeal against the judgement or he could accept it and look at remaking his decision. In the latter case, the procedure for re-determination of the DCO would have to be decided and the judgement taken into account, including consideration of alternatives. Another option would be to abandon the scheme and save some £2bn that might be spent elsewhere.  

Highways England may also be looking at its options, having now placed a hold on planned preliminary works which would include archaeological excavation, preparation of the ground for construction compounds, re-configuration of Rollestone Junction and the installation of utilities. Given the finding that the scheme would be significantly adverse for the WHS, it may wish to consider an alternative scheme, bearing in mind that Liverpool Maritime Mercantile City WHS has recently been de-listed by the World Heritage Committee who also warned, should the DCO stand, that Stonehenge might be placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger. 

We await news on what is to happen. 

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