The Government has announced that theplansto rebuild the traffic and environment around Stonehenge are to be shelved, as rising cost estimates for the project cast doubt on its validity.

Following work carried out by the Highways Agency, the estimates for the project rose from £284m to £470m, due apparently to soft weak chalk in the soil and a high water table.

Dr Stephen Ladyman, Roads minister, said: ‘Our recognition of the importance of Stonehenge as a World Heritage Site remains unchanged but given the scale of the cost increase we have to re-examine whether the scheme still represents value for money and if it remains the best option for delivering the desired improvements.’

The Government is now set to carry out a detailed review of all the options to find what will be best for the site, it says.

However the National Trust, which is keen to see the situation resolved, called on Government to use this review of the site to explore ‘creative solutions’ that safeguard the central objective of reuniting the ancient stones with the surrounding landscape of the World Heritage Site.

The Trust also expressed concern that the review of options should not in any way diminish the quality of the long-awaited project, or delay it substantially. ‘It needs to address not just the cost implications but also the heritage requirements of what is widely seen as one of the most important pre-historic landscapes in Europe,’ said a spokesperson.

English Heritage, on the other hand, continues to believe the present scheme is the most effective in terms of the structure of the site, and cost effectiveness: ‘We understand why the Department of Transport is concerned about costs. It is a complex and expensive scheme,’ said their statement.

‘However, we continue to believe that the proposed road scheme represents the best value for money for achieving all the desired improvements while offering protection to the underlying archaeology.’