Stonehenge Visitor Centre, Plans Dropped: RESCUE responds

The Government announced this week that it was withdrawing its financial support for the proposed £25m new visitor centre at the Stonehenge World Heritage Site. This is the first high-profile heritage casualty of the current budgetry pressures and forthcoming programme of spending cuts. It is unlikely to be the last.

Rescue does not welcome the abandonment of such projects, and urges the Government to ensure that the nation’s heritage resources are not put at risk by short-term and short-sighted budget decisions.

It has to be recognised however that the current scheme to improve the World Heritage Site and its arrangements for visitors has not enjoyed anything like the support that such a proposal should. The scheme has been rightly attacked for the additional fresh damage it will cause to the archaeology and landscape of the WHS, for the inappropriate scale, design and location of the visitor centre building, and for the unsatisfactory nature of the improvements to the WHS that were on offer overall. Rescue supported these criticisms and has, in partnership with many others, objected to this scheme and urged the adoption of a more considered and sensible approach to improvements at Stonehenge.

Rescue recognises that the current unsatisfactory state of the Stonehenge WHS cannot continue indefinitely and that improvements are urgently required. We believe that the current situation offers an opportunity to undertake the rethink we have consistently recommended. Surely now is the time to consider a low-impact programme on a more modest scale, to address the issues surrounding the Stonehenge WHS. This must be built around a sustainable and conservation-orientated agenda, which should have the archaeological and heritage landscape considerations of the WHS at its very heart.

Update: Stonehenge Alliance’s response to the news is included below.
Stonehenge Alliance PRESS RELEASE June 2010

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