Tunnel plan for Devil's Punchbowl

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The Independent Online
THE GOVERNMENT yesterday announced plans to save the Devil's Punchbowl, a beauty spot in Surrey, from severe road damage. It will run the new A3 Hindhead bypass through a mile-long tunnel beneath it, adding an extra pounds 30m to the cost, writes Nicholas Schoon.

Kenneth Carlisle, the Minister for Roads, said the Government had changed its mind and was willing to more than double the costs of an earlier proposal for the by-pass because of 'the beauty and sensitivity of the countryside around Hindhead'.

The National Trust, which owns the Punchbowl and neighbouring Hindhead Common, had threatened to use its statutory powers to make Parliament scrutinise compulsory purchases of its land for the road. Yesterday it said it was delighted with the tunnel proposal.

The new dual carriageway section of the A3 will unite wildlife-rich areas now severed by the existing London to Portsmouth road. This runs along the rim of the spectacular hollow of the Punchbowl and through areas of common, heathland and woods owned by the trust. There will probably be a public inquiry and construction is unlikely to begin before 1997.

The move raised questions on why the Government was not prepared to spend a smaller sum on a 'cut and cover' tunnel to protect Oxleas Wood in Greenwich, south-east London, from extensive road damage. Mr Carlisle declined to comment.