Highways England’s planned upgrade of the A303 past Stonehenge reached an important milestone last week, with the close of the six-month Development Consent Order (or DCO) public examination. The proposed £1.7 billion scheme will improve the A303 between Amesbury and Berwick Down with a new high quality dual carriageway and two-mile long tunnel, which will remove traffic from much of the Stonehenge landscape.
The scheme aims to unlock congestion along this vital route, conserve and enhance the Outstanding Universal Value of the Stonehenge World Heritage Site, benefit the local and regional economy and remove rat-running traffic from local communities. The current single carriageway is a bottleneck with congestion affecting the natural environment and blighting local villages, especially in the busy summer months. The road cuts through the World Heritage Site, running just 165 metres from the most famous prehistoric stone circle in the world.
A panel of independent inspectors, who have been hearing evidence at the examination now have three months to write a report with a recommendation for the Secretary of State for Transport, who is expected to make a decision in spring 2020.
An 18-month procurement process was launched in July to find a world-class contractor to build the scheme. Geotechnical surveys to help bidders with their tenders, have been taking place along the route of the scheme since June, and the work will move onto and around the A303/A345 Countess roundabout from early October.
A night-time lane closure will be in place on the roundabout on weeknights only, from 8pm to 6am, for three weeks of drainage surveys (from Monday, 7 October). Further survey work will be taking at Countess Roundabout from November, all to ensure that construction can start on schedule in 2021, provided the scheme is given the go ahead.