Save Stonehenge World Heritage Site (SSWHS)  has taken the first steps towards a legal challenge of the Government’s approval of the A303 Stonehenge dual carriageway through the World Heritage Site on 14 July, for a second time . Today, SSWHS is sending the Government a pre-application protocol letter outlining its concerns about the decision . This is the precursor to it filing a claim for judicial review which needs to be made within 6 weeks of the decision date.
This weekend marks the second anniversary of the quashing of the original development consent by the High Court after a successful application for judicial review was made by SSWHS in 2021 . The Government’s approval flew in the face of opposition from UNESCO  and the recommendation for refusal of the scheme by five of the Government’s own independent planning inspectors . In particular, the Government was criticised for not having properly assessed alternatives to National Highways’ damaging proposals.
UNESCO had asked the Government not to approve the scheme ahead of its World Heritage Committee meeting in September. However, the Government rushed out the decision ahead of the Somerset and Frome by-election, ignoring the request and concerns about the site being de-listed.
Chris Todd, one of the 3 directors of SSWHS, said:
“The Government has stuck two fingers up at UNESCO and all those who care about our British heritage. It has basically approved this highly flawed and damaging proposal for a second time. The same scheme that was thrown out in 2021. We believe there are strong grounds why this approval should also be struck down. We will do everything within our power to safeguard this most iconic of sites for future generations.”
Suzanne Keene, a member of the Stonehenge Alliance , a separate organisation that has campaigned to safeguard the WHS for over 20 years said:
“Stonehenge WHS is much more than the stones at its centre. It is a complex and hugely rich archaeological landscape without comparison. For the Government to be so dismissive of the huge damage that National Highways scheme will cause is deeply worrying.”
Leigh Day solicitor Rowan Smith said:
“There is an unfortunate sense of déjà vu. It appears that, yet again, the Government has ignored warnings that this road scheme will put at risk the world heritage status of Stonehenge. Despite calls by the World Heritage Committee for the decision to be delayed until it had met, the Secretary of State went ahead and reinstated development consent, without holding another public examination. It will be argued that this unfairness, combined with a failure to properly assess the scheme’s climate change impact, rendered the Secretary of State’s decision unlawful for a second time. If the Government, following correspondence, refuses to accept that, then our client intends to launch another claim for judicial review.”
SSWHS is now awaiting the Government’s response, which it should receive within two weeks. It will then have two weeks to file its claim. SSWHS has launched a crowdfunder on the CrowdJustice website to fund the legal action
 Save Stonehenge World Heritage Site is a limited company set up by three individuals closely associated with the Stonehenge Alliance to specifically challenge the original Government decision on 12 November 2020 to approve National Highways’ damaging scheme.
 The Government published its second decision letter on Friday, 14 July, six days before the Somerset and Frome by-election.
 SSWHS is represented by Leigh Day and barristers David Wolfe KC (Matrix), Victoria Hutton and Stephanie David (39 Essex). It is argued that the granting of development consent was unlawful on the following grounds:
- Given recent developments and key new evidence, it was procedurally unfair for the Secretary of State not to subject the re-determination to a full public re-examination
- 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 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
- assessing emissions from this scheme alone, without factoring in the emission from the whole A303/A358 corridor upgrade in the south west peninsular
- ignoring climate change adaptation
 The judgement was handed down by Mr Justice Holgate on 30 July 2021.
 UNESCO has long expressed its concern about National Highways’ proposals. See annexure G in the Final Report on the joint World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS / ICCROM Advisory Mission to Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites (April 2022)
 Five planning inspectors oversaw the 6 month public examination from 2 April to 2 October 2019 and gave their recommendation to refuse the application to the Government on 2 January, 2020, over 3 and half years ago.
 See Stonehenge Alliance website for more information.
 The CrowdJustice page will go live on 01:00 Friday, 28 July, 2023Please share