An interesting e-petition has just appeared on the Government website: Open Access to Stonehenge – Annual Midsummer Day Picnic.
Some bits of it are problematic from our viewpoint. For instance, what it says by way of justification is unlikely to be accepted nor is the principle of extending the access time ever going to find favour – see here. This bit is also a problem: “we now ask that there be a freely accessible, without charge, Annual Midsummer Day Picnic between the hours of Dawn to Dusk”. That implies people arriving in the dark so all the same cost, safety and conservation difficulties would remain and no way are the authorities going to agree to carrying on paying £200,000 a year to make it happen and forego another £50,000 in lost visitor income and let the people who want them to do all that come in for free! It just won’t happen.
However, we like the general idea of a daytime celebration (providing there isn’t overcrowding inside the stones) and we’ve been saying for some time it would be a better option in terms of cost, safety, conservation and “authenticity”. So we’ll have to see if the petition gets changed. An afternoon/evening event, including the sunset would seem to be the obvious way forward and would be a nice compromise in which everyone gets their core wishes – which is the only sort of agreement that’s ever going to be possible. It’s actually reminiscent of one of the ways we suggested the place could be used, a sort of community carnival starring the people of Amesbury in particular, since they were specifically mentioned by Cecil Chubb when he handed the place over….
One other thing that appears on the petition that we would broadly support is this: “We also call for an independent review of the Managed Open Access at the World Heritage Site of Stonehenge, especially in relation to access at Summer Solstice.” Some sort of re-think is certainly needed – in the interests of the main stakeholders, the general public.