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Stonehenge A303

High Court hearing on future of Stonehenge

On Tuesday 12 December Save Stonehenge World Heritage Site (SSWHS) will be at the High Court to seek a judicial review of the Government’s decision to approve a £2.5bn road scheme through Stonehenge World Heritage Site, for a second time.

Posted on 11 December 2023

The rolled-up hearing is set to last for three days.

It is argued that the grant of development consent was unlawful on the following grounds:

  • It was procedurally unfair, and a potential breach of human rights, for the Secretary of State not to re-appoint an independent examining authority in the re-determination process
  • It was irrational for the Secretary of State to give no weight to the risk that the scheme would result in Stonehenge having its World Heritage Status removed
  • The Secretary of State failed to take certain obviously material considerations into account, including by failing to consider diverting the road around the Stonehenge site, despite such an alternative having a far lower impact in heritage terms
  • The Secretary of State failed to properly assess the scheme’s climate change impact, owing to: applying roads policy which pre-dated the Net Zero target, treating the draft new roads policy as immaterial, ignoring the new national net zero strategy, and assessing emissions from this scheme alone, without factoring in the emission from the whole A303/A358 corridor upgrade in the south west peninsular.

SSWHS points out that UNESCO, five planning inspectors, and more than 230,000 people are strongly opposed to National Highways’ plans to damage Stonehenge World Heritage Site. SSWHS applied for a judicial review of the Government’s second approval of the scheme on 14 July, 2023. The first judicial review was held 23-25 June 2021, with the judgment being handed down by Mr Justice Holgate on 30 July 2021, quashing the Development Consent Order.

SSWHS is represented by Leigh Day who instructed barristers David Wolfe KC (Matrix), Victoria Hutton and Stephanie David (39 Essex).

John Adams, chair of the Stonehenge Alliance and one of the three directors of SSWHS, said:

“In the face of Government indifference to the harm this road will cause the World Heritage Site, we had no choice but to bring this legal action. As before we hope we are successful in overturning this proposed vandalism. We hope justice will be served over the next three days.”

Leigh Day solicitor Rowan Smith said:

“Despite this road development being so controversial, and despite important new matters which required proper scrutiny, the Secretary of State ignored calls for a fresh public examination. Our clients consider that was unfair and potentially a breach of human rights. Also, no regard whatsoever was given to the risk that Stonehenge would lose its world heritage status if plans were approved, which our clients say was plainly irrational. We look forward to presenting these arguments to the Court.”

SSWHS is crowdfunding its legal action.

Rowan Smith
Climate change Environment Human rights Judicial review Planning Wildlife

Rowan Smith

Rowan Smith is a senior associate solicitor in the human rights department.

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Two years after their court victory quashing a development consent order (DCO) for a road scheme through Stonehenge World Heritage Site, campaigners are starting the legal challenge process all over again.

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