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the Ancient World => Stonehenge & the Druids => Topic started by: Blacklands on October 28, 2012, 02:08:15 am

Title: Stonehenge visitor centre in balance
Post by: Blacklands on October 28, 2012, 02:08:15 am

Stonehenge visitor centre in balance


Plans to build a 20 million pound visitor centre at Stonehenge in time for the 2012 Olympics are under threat because of a major row between Britain's two leading heritage organisations.
Stonehenge visitor centre in balance
Many leading archaeological experts share the concerns of The National Trust over proposals for a new visitor centre Photo: GETTY

Chris Hastings, Public Affairs Editor

12:47PM GMT 20 Dec 2008


The National Trust and English Heritage, who are part of a committee set up to ensure the centre is built in time for the games, have clashed over the proposed location for the new building.

English Heritage, the government body, which is responsible for the day to day running of the World Heritage site wants to build the new visitor centre and car park on a piece of land known as the Fargo plantation.

But the National Trust, which owns a large chunk of the land surrounding the 5,000-year-old site is refusing to support the proposal because it says that the installation of such a significant construction would breach the site's World Heritage status.

It wants to build the centre on a site called Airman's Cross which is further away from the stones. Under this proposal visitors would be ferried to the stones via a new transit system.

The row is a major blow for the Government which announced last year that a new centre would be built in time for the expected influx of visitors in 2012.

Barbara Follett, the Heritage Minister had been expected to announce the proposed location last week but has now postponed the decision to January because of the deadlock.

Supporters of the new centre are adamant that if it is to be built on time than a planning application must be lodged with Salisbury Council within the first three months of next year.

If both heritage bodies fail to reach a compromise than either side could force a planning inquiry which would add further delays to the proposals.

Supporters of the new proposal believe that the money for the project will not be forthcoming if it can't be completed in time for the games.

Over the course of the last 20 years successive governments have already spent 38 million of public money on aborted schemes for a visitor centre.

Robert Key, the Conservative MP for Salisbury who has met with Barbara Follett, the Heritage Minister and the heads of the rival heritage organisations said: "We are right up against the wire on this thing. The Government has pledged to the nation that there will be a visitor centre in place for the Olympics.

"But if that is to happen than a planning application must be submitted within the next three months. If a compromise cannot be reached and there is a planning inquiry than the centre is not going to open on time.

"The Minister has told both sites to try and sort it out so we will just have to hope a compromise is reached."

Mr Key who is backing the English Heritage proposal said: "The Fargo site is the least worst option. If you put it further away than you have to have a transport system and that brings its own problems. I think the Fargo proposal disturbs the least amount of archaeology."

But many leading archaeological experts share the concerns of The National Trust.

Mike Heyworth, the Director of the British Council for Archaeology said: "English Heritage is proposing to build the centre and the car park on a site which is on a particularly important sight line.

"It will have a significant impact on how people view this historic site. The National Trust is concerned about such a significant new development in a World Heritage site.

"As a nation we have promised to protect the site and I don't see how installing such a large visitor centre so close to the stones fits with that."

Peter Alexander-Fitzgerald, a member of the International Council on Monuments and Sites UK, which is charged with protecting the sites said building the centre on the Fargo site could be a breach of international law.

"If you build the visitor centre within the world heritage site than you would not only be in breach of the spirit of the World Heritage site you would be imposing on a landscape which should not be modified."

A spokesman for the National Trust confirmed there were some disagreements about the exact location for the centre but he refused to be drawn on the row.

"We do have some difference of opinions about the exact location but we all agree there should be a visitor centre."

A spokesman for English Heritage said: "There isn't much information I can give you at the moment apart from saying that discussions are ongoing with various stake holders to seek a consensus on the preferred site option for new visitor facilities at Stonehenge.

"Ministers will be meeting next month to decide next steps. It is not appropriate for us to comment further at this juncture."

Stonehenge which was declared a world heritage site in 1986 is one of 27 such sites in the United Kingdom.

Various architectural practices including Denton Corker Marshall, Edward Cullinan, White Design, Make and Bennetts Associates, have been shortlisted for the visitor centre.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport was unavailable for comment.