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ex-12Mention the “Stonehenge saga” and most people think of decades of frustrating delay, indecision and inactivity. But we’re inclined to take a more cheerful view. It looks possible that an announcement is imminent that will mark an important stage – not the end of the discussions but an end, at least, to the worst of the threats to the monument.

There have been two. For a long time the “official” push was for a “short tunnel” involving building two miles of new roadway over the World Heritage Area in defiance of the wishes of UNESCO and practically every archaeological and heritage body. So much for public consultation! Thankfully, finance came to the monument’s aid and the plan was abandoned.

Relief was short lived. Another “official threat” speedily replaced it. Following a public consultation on where the new Visitors Centre should be built it became clear that the “official” view was that it should be built at Fargo Plantation – not only in the middle of the World Heritage Area but close to the stones and terribly intrusive – once again in defiance of the wishes of UNESCO and practically every archaeological and heritage body. So much for public consultation – again!

Very fortunately, it seems that the National Trust has stuck its toes in and thanks to them it may now be built further away, somewhere near Airman’s Cross – by no means the best option, not what Stonehenge deserves and not yet clarified, but light years better than what the government and English Heritage would have inflicted without the intervention of financial constraints and the NT.

Let us hope we’re right and that the scheme is located not at Fargo Plantation but in the least intrusive section of Airman’s Cross. The public is entitled to still see it as wrong that after decades of talking and delay the new facility STILL isn’t going to be well away from the World Heritage Area area and not impacting upon it at all but equally they’re entitled to rejoice that the much, much worse ambitions of EH and the government have been shelved. Let that be an end to them.

Tuesday 27th January Radio 4 at 11 am. An excellent programme that explores the underwater secrets of the mesolithic British landscape that existed before being submerged by the last Ice Age.


January 2009

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