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NASA has asked future visitors to the Moon to keep at least 1.2 miles away from the Apollo landing sites. It says they’re important to mankind and must be protected and that “only one misstep could forever damage this priceless human treasure”. Meanwhile English Heritage is about to welcome many thousands of people in party mood to a gathering inside Stonehenge.

Apollo 17 Lunar Heritage Site: protection limit 1.2 miles

Stonehenge World Heritage Site: protection limit zero inches and four bottles of beer or a bottle of wine per person

This year EH has offered a rationale for how they conduct the event. It seems unconvincing in four ways:

1. “There is always a risk that something could happen to the stones” but “We will keep them open for these gatherings as long as the stones don’t get damaged”. Those are surprising admissions as if you’ve a duty to protect the stones and ensure visitor safety you don’t knowingly take risks. At least, that’s what a lawyer would say if someone WAS hurt.

2. “by allowing access for these gatherings English Heritage can better control what happens and put measures in place to ensure that the monument does not get damaged.” Can Stonehenge be better protected if it’s packed solid than if numbers are limited? Does that make any sense to anyone?

3. “Denying access at these gatherings could lead to public disorder and this would pass the responsibility of controlling this unrest onto the police.” So  some attendees are potential rioters, or so it’s feared. Doesn’t that indicate a need for an advance vetting system and a limit on numbers – like every nightclub imposes every night? They don’t fear rioting. The Beanfield was about closure of Stonehenge not entry by ticket only. Isn’t the potential for trouble a direct function of the “just turn up in limitless numbers” way things are being managed?

4. “We are fortunate that our relationship with the groups involved in the gatherings allows us to have peaceful and incident-free Solstices and Equinoxes.” Umm, actually  images from previous events consistently suggest the opposite. But the real point is the fact it has now been acknowledged there’s always a risk that something could happen to the stones. Health & Safety and monument protection obligations require something IS done about that risk and all avoidable risks. Yet take a look at what happened last year. The stewards failed to stop him. The crowd egged him on. Right at the end, someone shouts “He survived”. What if he hadn’t?

[Update: the video has now been made “private” of course, but it shows a drunken idiot climbing right up – and falling off – one of the highest stones while lots of other drunken idiots roar him on. So the precise opposite of “by allowing access for these gatherings English Heritage can better control what happens and put measures in place to ensure that the monument does not get damaged”. Such behaviour is not allowed and doesn’t happen at St Paul’s or Wembley, so why here? Is “restricting numbers for health & safety and monument protection purposes” such a dreadful idea? Will people really riot if it happened. Which people are these? Shouldn’t the idea be proposed so we can all see who it is that doesn’t give a damn for Stonehenge! It won’t be Druids or genuine pagans, that’s for sure, so why are they being even listened to?]

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