Road scheme was approved for the second time in July

Unesco has told the government to amend its plans for a controversial road tunnel near Stonehenge.

The UN cultural body said the World Heritage Site could be placed on the danger list if the proposals go ahead in their current form.

The government approved the £1.7bn National Highways scheme to relieve traffic congestion on the A303 road in July.

Stonehenge tunnel 2023

Source: National Highways

The scheme includes a controversial two-mile tunnel close to Stonehenge

It includes overhauling eight miles of the road and a highly controversial two-mile tunnel near the world famous 5,000-year-old monument.

The group has called on the government to announce a new plan before the World Heritage Committee meets in February next year.

“The currently proposed western portal and associated dual carriageway within a cutting would have significant and inappropriate adverse impacts on the physical and visual integrity of the property”, the body said.

Earlier this month, members of The Stonehenge Alliance and Save Stonehenge World Heritage Site took a petition to the Unesco headquarters in Paris.

It gained 225,000 signatures from 147 countries urging the government to halt plans for the “damaging” road scheme.

>> Read more: Spending watchdog questions £2bn Stonehenge tunnel

But ministers say the scheme is needed to tackle a “long-standing traffic bottleneck”. 

National Highways project manager for the scheme, David Bullock, said: “It is very much a scheme objective to conserve and enhance the World Heritage Site and this is being achieved through close collaborative working with heritage groups, the independent A303 Scientific Committee, and our archaeology contractors, who have an extensive track record of work in connection with the Stonehenge landscape.

“We have taken a lot of care to get to this point, and we will continue to work with the Heritage Monitoring Advisory Group and experts within the Scientific Committee to ensure the scheme is delivered with heritage and the Outstanding Universal Value of the World Heritage Site at the heart of every decision made.

“We remain confident this scheme is the best solution for tackling a long-standing traffic bottleneck, improving journeys, bringing much-needed relief to local communities, boosting the economy in the south-west, while returning the Stonehenge landscape to something like its original setting.”

The tunnel was first proposed in 1995 but has been thwarted numerous times by heritage and environmental groups.

The government gave the latest plan an initial green light in 2017 before it was officially approved in 2020, and then quashed by the High Court the following year following a campaign by locals.

It was then approved for a second time by the Department of Transport on 14 July this year.