Yesterday’s Budget appeared to signal the final nail in the coffin for groups protesting the A303 proposals at Stonehenge – but contrary to what the Chancellor appeared to say, a green light hasn’t suddenly been switched on for the A303 tunnel, just a continued commitment (since 2014) of HMG to “get it done” and that the Government are “going to get it done”. This isn’t the same as giving the go-ahead to a specific scheme.
The small print of the Roads Infrastructure 2 (RIS2) document published yesterday indicates that the Stonehenge scheme, like a number of other road schemes that have been carried over into RIS2 from RIS1, will need to “remain value for money”.
Furthermore, the legal procedure through which the A303 Stonehenge scheme has been travelling is not completed: there has not yet been a final decision from the Secretary of State for Transport, and nor has there been publication of the Examining Authority’s report.
Rescue has little doubt that as a flagship proposal, the scheme will be approved by the Secretary of State, but whether it will go ahead in the end isn’t certain. The scheme is admitted by Highways England to represent low to poor value for money, and after the Heathrow Judgement, there are already further challenges to Government infrastructure policy under way, vis-à-vis climate change and carbon emissions policy commitments – which would appear to have implications also for road infrastructure schemes. There is a long way to go before the first machines might arrive on site to put this damaging scheme into operation.