Here are the latest press releases from both English Heritage and the Department for Media, Culture and Sport.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 13th MAY 2009
ENGLISH HERITAGE WELCOMES STONEHENGE DECISION
English Heritage welcomed the Government’s decision today (13th May 2009) to go ahead with new visitor facilities for Stonehenge. Together with integrated proposals to close the A344, this decision will improve the monument’s setting and presentation to visitors.
Professor Sir Barry Cunliffe, Chairman, English Heritage, said: “Our vision has always been to restore a sense of dignity to the setting of Stonehenge and to improve its visitor facilities.
English Heritage has now secured, through working with the Department of Culture Media and Sport and a group of stakeholders, an agreed location for new visitor facilities in accordance with the World Heritage Site Management Plan. This will lead to a pragmatic and affordable scheme which will make significant and vitally-needed improvements to what we have now.”
The chosen site, Airman’s Corner, is about 2.5km (1.5 miles) west from the current visitor centre, on the junction of the A344 and A360. It is at the edge of the World Heritage Site and has good access to the Stones. The decision has been welcomed by The National Trust, the UK Commission for UNESCO, the South West of England Regional Development Agency, and South West Tourism, among others.
The scheme will include an efficient, all-weather visitor transit system, offering visitors the convenience of being dropped off near the monument. It is envisaged the new site will enable increased educational and interpretation facilities.
Sir Barry added: “Airman’s Corner had wide support and is the unanimous recommendation of the project team, supported by the major heritage groups and the landowners. I congratulate the Government for making this decisive and timely move. It is in the public interest for everyone who cares about Stonehenge and its conservation to be united in supporting this scheme and ensuring that the project is successfully delivered on time.
“I am also delighted to announce that after a tendering process leading architectural firm Denton Corker Marshall has been appointed to design the new centre. The design will pay special regard to the sensitive landscape and other environmental issues.”
Stephen Quinlan, Director of Denton Corker Marshall, said: “We are delighted to be working on Stonehenge once again, and we very much look forward to working with English Heritage. This project has always been close to our hearts and is especially interesting. For a long time there has been a need to find an appropriate solution for the visitor facilities, and we are very pleased to have the opportunity to help provide one.”
Dame Fiona Reynolds, Director-General of the National Trust, said: "We are delighted by this latest step forward in developing a new visitor centre for Stonehenge and improving the surrounding landscape. The new facilities will significantly enhance the experience for the many thousands of visitors to this important landmark and the other planned work has the potential to greatly improve the setting of the monument. We look forward to working with English Heritage and other partners in helping take the project forward."
Closure of the A344
The A344/A303 junction (Stonehenge Bottom) will be closed, and the section of the A344 from Stonehenge Bottom to the Stones will be decommissioned and grassed over. This will reunite Stonehenge with the ancient processional Avenue and improve the setting of the monument. The junction closure will also eliminate a traffic black spot, leading to fewer accidents on this part of the A303. The remaining part of the A344 will be the route for the visitor shuttle service between Airman’s Corner visitor centre and the Stones.
A planning application will be submitted in the late summer, when there will be further public consultation on the scheme. Construction work is expected to take place in 2011, with the new visitor facilities scheduled to open in 2012, in time for the London Olympics.
Sue Davies, culture committee chair for the UK National Commission for UNESCO, said: "The improvements offered by the Airman's Corner proposal are long overdue - the current environment around Stonehenge is a disgrace and urgent action is required.
"This option will allow for much-improved conservation by allowing for the restoration of grasslands and a higher quality experience for visitors, many of whom see Stonehenge as a symbol of Britain. We look forward to its successful completion - as an international icon, Stonehenge both needs and deserves the investment.”
Geoff Wainwright FSA, President of the Society of Antiquaries, said: ‘We welcome the decision which is important for our international reputation as a nation which cares for its heritage.”
Juliet Williams, Chairman of The South West of England Regional Development Agency, said: “We strongly support significant improvement of the visitor facilities at Stonehenge. The Stones are one of the nation's most important cultural landmarks and we shall work with our partners to do all that we can to realise the plans set out today. We are committed to giving visitors to the South West the very best experience and thereby encouraging more people to come and enjoy our spectacular and compelling region.”
Martin Bell, Director of South West Tourism, said: “Stonehenge is a key gateway to the South West and an the icon that helps us sell all the other wonderful heritage offerings our region has to offer and yet, for all to many years, the visitor experience has been marred by the proximity to the road and the associate traffic distraction. That is why this announcement is really welcomed and we cannot wait for the work to start and more importantly completed.”
Mike Heyworth, Director, Council for British Archaeology, said: “The CBA welcomes this decision as part of a sustainable 21st-century solution to the dual challenges of improving visitor access and conservation for this outstandingly important World Heritage Site. We applaud the Government's support, and the commitment of the project's partners, in taking the first step towards creating the public facilities and environmental improvement that Stonehenge's world class archaeological landscape deserves.”
Department for Media, Culture and Sport.
GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCE NEXT STEPS ON STONEHENGE VISITOR CENTRE
A new visitor centre to help bring alive the mystery and majesty of Stonehenge, the UK’s internationally renowned World Heritage Site, was given the go-ahead in principle today by the Government.
The Stonehenge Programme Board, chaired by the Culture Minister, Barbara Follett, and Transport Minister, Andrew Adonis, has recommended that the centre, costing up to £25m, should be built at Airman’s Corner. The way is now clear for work to be done on working up a design, seeking planning permission and raising funding to deliver the project.
Funding will be provided through a range of private and public sources, including English Heritage, Heritage Lottery Fund, Highways Agency, Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Department for Transport. The level of public funds committed will be conditional on meeting the rigorous requirements for approving major public projects. The Government also announced that the site will be further enhanced by closing the A344 which at present takes traffic very close to the stones.
Culture Secretary Andy Burnham said:
“Stonehenge has fascinated and enthralled people for thousands of years. It is undoubtedly one of the world’s key heritage sites, and a preeminent UK visitor attraction. I am delighted that we have been able to identify a sustainable and affordable solution for a visitor centre at one of the world’s key heritage sites, and one of the UK’s most iconic visitor attractions. Today’s announcement marks the first steps towards making long held aspirations for Stonehenge a reality, and could not have been achieved without the commitment, determination and passion of our partners. “
Barbara Follett said:
“Stonehenge is our most important and well recognised prehistoric site and, as such, is absolutely at the heart of our national history and heritage. Everyone agrees, however, that the way it is presented to visitors is far short of ideal. Consensus on how to improve visitor facilities has eluded stakeholders for far too long, and so I am delighted that we now have plans to move forward. There is still a long way to go, of course, but we now have to get on with making it happen”
The chosen site at Airman’s Corner is about 1.5 miles west from the current site, at the edge of the World Heritage Site and has good access to the stones.
English Heritage Chairman, Professor Sir Barry Cunliffe, said:
“Our vision for Stonehenge has always been a simple one: to restore a sense of dignity and wonder to its setting, and provide visitors with a really high quality experience. I believe the plans announced today will do this, and significantly improve what we have there at present.”
Dame Fiona Reynolds, Director General of the National Trust, added:
“The new facilities will greatly improve the experience for the many thousands of visitors to Stonehenge, while the other planned work has the potential to really improve the wider setting of the monument itself. We look forward to working with English Heritage and the other partners in this project to help take it forward.”
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