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30 July 2005
Stonehenge plan stopped dead by council decision

English Heritage plans for a £57m visitor centre at Stonehenge, to replace the facilities damned as 'a national disgrace' 15 years ago, have been thrown into chaos after Salisbury district council rejected the planning application.
The move means all aspects of the plan to transform the setting of one of the world's most famous prehistoric monuments, both the road scheme and plans for the new visitor centre, have collapsed.
     Salisbury councillors voted to throw out the visitor centre application, a move greeted by cries of triumph from local residents and of astonishment even from some opponents of the scheme. It follows the government announcement last week that all options for improving the traffic choked roads which strangle the site will be reviewed after construction costs for a long tunnel more than doubled.
     Salisbury District Council leader, Kevin Wren, said: "This council has always supported the broad objective of improving the facilities for Stonehenge. But we also have a duty to our local residents and community and that has led to the decision taken."
     A statement issued on Wednesday by English Heritage, said it was "surprised and disappointed" by the decision. "We believe that the grounds for refusal are ones which can easily be addressed and will be discussing with Salisbury District Council when to re-submit the scheme," the statement said. English Heritage had hoped to win planning permission to go ahead with the visitor centre anyway, pending a Highways Agency decision on the roads. However, the district council's planning committee concluded that the uncertainty over the roads left too many unanswerable questions.
     Councillors also had detailed concerns about a crucial aspect of the scheme, the 'land train', to carry visitors from the new centre where all cars would be left out of sight of the stones, to drop-off points around the site. Although English Heritage insisted it would run on a light surface which would not damage the landscape and could simply be removed later if necessary, local residents insisted the track would amount to a new road, and that trains would be trundling around the site every 10 minutes until late into the evening.
     A council statement said that as far as it was concerned the decision was final, and that if English Heritage appealed there would be a public inquiry.

Sources: BBC News (26 July 2005), Leisure Opportunities (27 July 2005), The Guardian (28 July 2005)

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