Protestors gather as judicial review decides the fate of Stonehenge - Extinction Rebellion UK
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Stonehenge-1-e1702502637954-967x1024.jpg

Protestors gather as judicial review decides the fate of Stonehenge

Extinction Rebellion activists joined Stonehenge Alliance, Sacred Earth Activism and other groups outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London on Tuesday (12 December) at the start of a three day hearing which will determine the fate of Stonehenge.

The hearing centres around the UK Government’s decision earlier this year to re-approve plans to build a tunnel, expressway, and flyover through the ecologically sensitive chalk downland landscape of the World Heritage Site, which is designated by UNESCO as being of “Outstanding Universal Value”.

The £2.5bn road scheme received government approval in 2020, before being quashed following a successful campaign at the High Court in 2021. However the Department for Transport approved the scheme for a second time on 14 July this year. 

Stonehenge Alliance has campaigned against expanding the A303 and other road projects close to the Stones for two decades. It is now seeking a judicial review of the Government’s decision, which blatantly ignores warnings from UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee that the scheme will cause irreparable damage to the site and result in it being placed on the World Heritage ‘In Danger list’, losing its world heritage status.   

The judicial review is expected to run for three days during which the Court will hear various arguments from lawyers Leigh Day, including that the Secretary of State failed to properly assess the scheme’s climate change impact.

Campaigners are warning this is the last roll of the dice before the bulldozers wreak havoc in this sensitive ancient landscape.

Stonehenge is set in the largest pristine chalk landscape in Europe which is home to some of the rarest habitat in the UK. It would be irretrievably damaged should the scheme go ahead. 

The Stonehenge Expressway is part of the UK government’s second Road Investment Strategy (RIS2) – a strategy that will see more roads built around the UK at a time when we need to be lowering our emissions and will cost the taxpayer £27bn while we are in a cost of living crisis and seeing cuts to vital services.

The Road Investment Strategy has been challenged in court and there is evidence that the government’s ‘official emissions calculations dramatically underestimate figures.’ The Stonehenge Expressway alone would increase CO2 emissions by 2.5 million tonnes over its lifetime. A further road expansion scheme, RIS3, will be published next year. XR groups and other activist groups have been protesting against RIS2 all over the UK for years.

The Stonehenge Expressway has attracted an eclectic range of opponents, including archaeologists, pagans, transport and nature campaigners and climate activists, fighting to protect a national archaeological monument on sacred ancestral land, and to prevent widespread environmental and ecological damage.

Marion Tucker, an Extinction Rebellion activist, who attended the first day of the judicial review, warned that the Stonehenge Expressway is a carbon bomb and an ecological disaster in the making. 

“Stonehenge is embedded in the heart and mind of the national psyche. The ancient stones hold a link to our indigenous past and there is something about the sense of place that has captured the imagination of generations throughout its long history. We must stand for the stones.”
She continued: “This mysterious, universally known stone circle is held sacred by many; the stones are treasured by those who value the stories they tell of our shared humanity and enjoyed by thousands of tourists or those who simply pass by on the A303.”

Di Cross, an SEA and XR South West campaigner, added: “That activists have once again managed to raise a huge sum of money to fight this destructive road scheme and tunnel shows the strength of feeling around this sacred site. 

“That we have had to do so is disgraceful. This is a World Heritage Site and should be safe – that we are having to protect it from our own Government is shameful. But protect it we will.” 

The court is expected to rule on the appeal early in the New Year.

Find out more about the impact of RIS2 elsewhere in the UK: How It Works: Road Investment Strategy 2 (RIS2) with Transport Action Network & XR Derby

For further information contact

Related topics

Extinction Rebellion judicial review Stonehenge

Sign up for news