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English Heritage has again increased its Stonehenge entry price. It’s now £16.50 if you book and £19.50 if you just turn up. Once again that’s far ahead of inflation. So where’s the giveaway? Well, you get in free four times a year if you’re one of a couple of dozen Druids or a genuine pagan or, more to the point, if you’re one of tens of thousands of pagans-of-convenience-for-the-day or anyone else for that matter. What’s more, unlike most paying customers, they’ll let you go inside the stone circle itself.
So why a million pounds? Well, at some summer solstices thirty five thousand people turn up (and another 10,000 at Winter solstice and the equinoxes), that’s 45,000 visitors not paying £19.50 each, which is £877,500 of lost revenue.
Then there’s the cost of staging the events. EH say that in 2015 the summer event cost the following:
Security & Stewarding £54k (inc all security and stewarding, car park management and St John Ambulance)
Event Management £13k (inc risk management, health and safety and operation set up, dismantling and clear up)
Temporary Equipment £56k (inc lighting and technical production, tracking, fencing, toilets and event accommodation)
Land Lease Charges £10k (inc hire of land for car parking)
Signage & Printing £2k (inc signage production and installation and conditions of entry leaflets)
Waste Management £11k (inc litter picking, recycling and removal of all waste off site, cleaning of toilets)
General Site Maintenance £3k (inc general maintenance and operational support required before and after Solstice)
Consumables £1k (inc toilet rolls, waste bags and PPE)
Add to that….Other taxpayer-funded agencies including the police, perhaps £20K
and costs at the other three events, say £50k
Making total costs £220,000. So £877,500 of lost revenue plus £220,000 costs makes a total of £1,097,500 every year.
Since the paying customers are subsidising the free shindigs to the tune of £1 each, they’ve maybe got a case for complaining about this latest price hike! What’s more, they might ask: why stage the summer event expensively at night, when we’re paying for it? As EH tells them very clearly in its literature and presentations: the winter solstice sunset is the one that matters. So it’s all a bit of a muddle, as befits a heritage organisation that is lobbying for massive new damage to Stonehenge’s landscape.