Stonehenge at sunrise
Photo: Espa Photo Agency / dpa
A British court has taken government approval to build a car tunnel near the prehistoric site of Stonehenge.
The judge in charge ordered a review of the construction project on Friday and canceled the approval granted by Transport Minister Grant Shapps.
Unesco had previously announced that it would classify the site as "endangered" should the tunnel actually be built.
The court stated that Shapps had not been provided "legally sufficient material" to enable it to assess the impact of the project on individual elements of the cultural heritage.
The Minister of Transport should also have considered alternative options.
The approval of the building project is therefore not legal.
Expert advice ignored
The 3.2 kilometer tunnel is intended to replace a busy road that leads up to 165 meters to the famous stone circle in the county of Wiltshire in south-west England.
The tunnel should not run directly under the stones, but critics complain that its entrance should be on the site of the World Heritage Site.
Unesco had therefore threatened to withdraw the site's status as a world heritage site.
The historian Tom Holland, who had campaigned against the project, welcomed the court decision as "wonderful news".
He hoped "that the government will accept this ruling and save the two billion pounds in taxpayers' money that they wanted to spend on this shameful act of desecration," he said on Twitter.
The road operator Highways England, on the other hand, was "deeply disappointed".
The company will now wait while the Ministry of Transport "examines its options."
Transport Minister Shapps had disregarded a panel of planning experts last year that had recommended that the construction project be rejected.
Historians suggest that the enigmatic Stonehenge stone circle was erected sometime between 3000 and 1600 BC.
The megalithic stones have puzzled researchers for centuries.
A common theory for their creation is that people would have understood the astronomical calendar back then.
The Stonehenge stones were therefore aligned with the solstice.
The site has been listed as a Unesco World Heritage site since 1986.
mak / AFP