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Stonehenge breakthrough as visitor centre agreed

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Konrad Verhagen
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« on: September 07, 2009, 12:17:31 am »

The proposals were welcomed by Barry Cunliffe, professor of archaeology and chair of English Heritage, which manages the monument, and Dame Fiona Reynolds, director of the National Trust, which owns thousands of acres of surrounding farmland.

It was also welcomed by Tim Darvill, professor of archaeology at Bournemouth University, who, with Geoffrey Wainwright, was the most person recent to excavate at the site: "It is a good scheme which has many attractions, not least the fact the visitors' centre will be on the edge of the world heritage site, and that the connection to Stonehenge follows an existing road line and thus has minimal archaeological impact."

However Tim Schadla-Hall, reader in public archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology, said: "I find it incomprehensible that the centre is going to be so far from the monument." He added that the site would make it impossible for visitors to understand the monument in its landscape context while the open setting of the centre itself would "stick out like a sore thumb".

Julian Richards, an archaeologist who has worked for most of his life in and around Stonehenge, said that while the plans solved the objective of getting the centre away from the listed heritage site, and off National Trust land, the compromise was dull. "This is probably the best available solution, but for many people this is going to mean quite a long, and to be honest, rather dull walk. The other proposals had the virtue of a dramatic moment when you crested a hill and suddenly saw the stones before you. It is also not at all clear how they are going to get visitors who cannot walk so far – I suspect there'll have to be a shuttle bus."

Given that funding sank the last attempt, yesterday's announcement was vague on how the money would be raised this time – "through a range of private and public sources including English Heritage, Heritage Lottery Fund, the Highways Agency, Department for Culture Media and Sport, and the Department for Transport". It is clear the government has no intention of meeting the entire bill: "The level of public funds committed will be conditional on meeting the rigorous requirements for approving major public projects."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2009/may/13/stonehenge-visitors-new-centre
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