One of Britain’s most famous and iconic white horses is threatened by plans for a new road, say countryside groups.

A £33million scheme by Wiltshire County Council (WCC) to create a bypass around Westbury to ease the town’s traffic problems has run into opposition from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).

CPRE spokesman Laura Jansen said: “It is incredible that the county council wants to push forward this intrusive and damaging scheme.”

The planned bypass would take traffic on the A350 through countryside and the Wellhead valley at the foot of the Westbury White Horse.

Ms Jansen continued: “This is the oldest of Wiltshire’s 12 white horse chalk hill figures, and this road would have a major impact on the figure and its historic landscape.”

The plans were given the go-ahead by WCC in May 2007 but are subject to a public inquiry later this year.

The government-funded work could start at the beginning of 2009, with the road open by autumn 2010.

But the CPRE plans to object at the inquiry saying the bypass would scar the countryside around the stunning Westbury White Horse created 230 years ago on a site thought to have been carved out by Anglo-Saxons.

Instead, the CPRE is pushing the county council to build to the west of Westbury.

WCC describes the scheme as a massively important project that will transform the lives of people in Westbury.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (6 March, ’08)