The agency has identified two alternative routes across the Avon Valley, south of Salisbury, Wiltshire, which would avoid the need to take land from East Harnham Meadows, a newly designated Site of Special Scientific Interest.
The report was ordered by Sir George Young, the Secretary of State for Transport, and John Gummer, the Secretary of State for the Environment, last October after the Government decided it was "minded to approve" the 11-mile bypass. It will now go out to consultation with interested parties.
Plans for the bypass, which would ruin the image - immortalised by the artist John Constable - of Salisbury Cathedral viewed across the water meadows, have been widely condemned by organisations including Friends of the Earth and the Countryside Commission, the Government's official advisers on the countryside. Louise JuryReuse content