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25 November 1998
Future Improvements at Stonehenge

Great Britain's Culture Secretary Chris Smith spelled out his vision for a more dignified future for Stonehenge, with the traffic removed and new visitor facilities located outside the World Heritage Site at Countess East. Speaking at a meeting in Amesbury with the local authorities and representatives of the local community, Chris Smith said:
Now that the scheme to improve the section of the A303 road next to the stones is included in DETR's Targeted Programme of Improvements, we can at last begin to plan ahead. Opportunities like this do not often arise, and we must grasp the chance we now have to rescue Stonehenge from its surrounding pollution and clutter.
     We can get rid of the present mess, remove all the unsightly modern surroundings, remove the traffic noise and intrusion, and return Stonehenge to its original landscape. Visitors will be able once again to wander freely round and through the stones in open downland. This is a prize to be fought for.
     This vision is the only viable way to achieve that; the only realistic alternative is to do nothing, and I believe that would be unacceptable to most people. The overwhelming balance of advantage lies in removing the noise and visual intrusion of the A303 from the Stonehenge landscape, as is now proposed.
     Now that we are able to take forward the proposal to dual the A303, we will initiate positive discussions with Wiltshire County Council about closing the A344 next to the Stones. This is not only crucial to the success of English Heritage's scheme for improved visitor facilities, but will remove a notoriously dangerous junction with the A303.
     Now, too, we can begin to make real plans for creating new visitor facilities for Stonehenge. There is a new, more environmentally sustainable possibility: to locate visitor facilities at Countess East with a Park and Ride link to Fargo. Countess East has the advantage of being outside the World Heritage site but close enough to allow access to the stones within reasonable time. English Heritage is exploring the possibility of developing a new visitor centre there in partnership with a commercial operator. All car parking for Stonehenge would be at the new centre, which would be linked by a free park-and-ride scheme to a dropping off point at Fargo North.

Source: British Department for Culture, Media and Sport

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