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© Jim Mitchell, Heritage Action
The Public Inquiry into the proposed closure of roads and byways around Stonehenge has just ended and a decision is likely by December. There were some perfectly understandable concerns expressed but John Hobson on behalf of English Heritage summed the situation up rather well: “It is accepted it will result in a loss of amenity for those who will no longer be able to ride or drive a motor vehicle on byways through the World Heritage site. However, this loss is to be balanced against the enhancement of the experience of a much greater number of people who will benefit from the removal of motorised vehicles.”
Druid leader King Arthur Pendragon objects to the proposals on the grounds they are a violation of his human rights to be able to access the area, particularly during Pagan ceremonies such as the solstices and equinox. However closing a road isn’t denying access so it seems unlikely he will succeed on that point. In his closing submission he said: “We have fought long and hard for what little rights we have in and around Stonehenge and we will not give them up lightly”. In fairness though there are many pagan groups and most of them are in favour of these closures. Also, no-one has secured “rights” in relation to Stonehenge, only some temporary “permissions”.
It seems highly likely those permissions will continue at solstices whatever the impending changes, but no-one seems to know. We’ve been asking about fences for more than a year …
The fences – whether there will be any and where – are crucial to what happens at solstice. Does Arthur know what has been decided? Perhaps he thinks there will still be a free-for-all inside the stones. We hope there won’t. The impending changes are the time to start changing all that are they not? Keeping people off the stones is the number one priority and duty, the rest will become easier as EH revamp the site. Without the fence (for instance) a separate focus could be set up where the car park is now, not a party area, but maybe a “music & performance area”, a place where drummers and jugglers could go. Something – anything – to drag the overall centre away from the stones. With the fence at present, people are effectively forced into crowding round – and onto the stones. No-one can seriously claim that’s a good thing or a right and in our opinion the sooner it is consigned to history the better.