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Ever wondered how we got in this mess, where a body whose role is to protect “an internationally-important collection of historic sites and artefacts … for the benefit of this and future generations” is supporting massive new damage to the Stonehenge World Heritage landscape?

One of the reasons arose 10 years ago, in the late summer of 2010. The news came that 177 taxpayer-funded bodies were to be axed and 129 merged in a “bonfire of the quangos:. An unnamed Whitehall source was quoted saying: ‘These reforms represent the most significant rolling back of bureaucracy and the state for decades and ‘Our starting point has been that every quango must not only justify its existence but its reliance on public money.’

For heritage and archaeology, “rolling back of the state” could only mean one thing: giving less – or no – money on protecting sites and the bodies responsible for them. Hence the short tunnel, which hides Stonehenge from the traveling public and gave a newly impoverished English Heritage a priceless monopoly over the public seeing the monument at all, came to be considered the way forward by English Heritage.

It’s a precious heritage asset but more significantly it is a gold mine that a quango is prepared to accept as its financial solution. In the end though, that price for English Heritage’s financial survival is too great. Another way must be found.

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