Historic England’s December guidance document, The Setting of Heritage Assets, has so many “ifs” and “buts” that it provides no clear guidance at all. It says settings need preserving – or maybe not – but there’s no clear indication of which. But more to the point, it’s a fair bet they cast many a backward glance at their own uncomfortable support for depriving the world of the classic view of Stonehenge. Maybe they hoped the public wouldn’t read as far as Section 11, the words of which ensure they are hoisted very high with their own petard:

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“Views which contribute more to understanding the significance of a heritage asset include:

  • those where the composition within the view was a fundamental aspect of the design or function of the heritage asset
  • those with historical associations, including viewing points and the topography of battlefields
  • those with cultural associations, including landscapes known historically for their picturesque and landscape beauty
  • those which became subjects for paintings of the English landscape tradition, and those views which have otherwise become historically cherished and protected.”

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Stonehenge at Sunset, 1840, by William Turner of Oxford. Soon the only people that will see anything remotely like it will be Historic England from high above their own petard.