Planning permission has still not been given for English Heritage’s new visitor-facilities (May 2010).
A decision awaits resolution of issues arising from the Stonehenge Alliance’s solicitor’s letter to Wiltshire Council on the matter of its Appropriate Assessment of the impact of the proposed development on nearby Special Areas of Conservation (The River Avon and Salisbury Plain) that are protected by European legislation.
The Council’s reply to that letter, dated 21 May 2010, is currently being considered by the Alliance’s solicitor.
Meanwhile Wiltshire Council has advertised its intention to place Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs) on the A344 once it is stopped up at its junction with the A303, and on certain byways that are accessed from it within the WHS. The negative local response to the proposed TRO on the A344 has led the Council to state that a Public Inquiry will be held into the matter, possibly this autumn. Once any planning permission for the visitor-facilities scheme has been granted, the proposed stopping up of the A344/A303 junction will be referred to the Secretary of State. That proposal would then be advertised for consultation and, if the response to the TRO is anything to go by, there may again be a substantial local objection, possibly leading to another Public Inquiry that would precede that into the TRO.
All of these delays indicate that completion of the new visitor centre scheme in time for the 2012 Olympics would be quite a challenge.
Given the now very tight construction schedule and also bearing in mind the present economic climate, the Stonehenge Alliance has written to Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt, asking him to consider putting the whole scheme on hold in order to give time to consider alternative and more sensitive proposals that would better respect the sensitive archaeological landscape of the WHS. We suggested that it would be more economical in the short term to make improvements to the present facilities at Stonehenge which have long been allowed to decline.
Breaking news: The new coalition government has announced that they are withdrawing financial backing from the Stonehenge Visitor Centre project. Read our response to this news.