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5 November 2006
Stonehenge 'lacks magic'

The Unesco World Heritage site Stonehenge is 'a destination in trouble', a new survey has found. The National Geographic Traveler magazine marked the site 56 out of 100 against criteria including historic preservation and tourism management. Survey panellists said Stonehenge was a 'mess', 'over-loved' and 'crowded'. English Heritage, which looks after the site, said it was "actively seeking to revamp its visitor facilities" and improve the nearby A303 road.
     More than 400 tourism experts rated 94 World Heritage sites in the third survey of its kind for National Geographic. The researchers ranked Stonehenge 75th in the list of destinations and declared it to be "in moderate trouble". They said Stonehenge had massive numbers of tourists "making for a crowded, noisy environment". Local people appeared not to benefit from the site, the magazine said, and its aesthetic qualities were compromised by the existing road layout and adjacent development. The verdict on Stonehenge went on: "What a mess! Compelling ... over-loved ... certainly the current experience lacks magic. Crowd control is a good thing, but over-regulation has made the visitorís experience rather disappointing, charm is gone. Would be good if something is done to surrounding landscape."
     But while the criticism of Stonehenge, which last year received 800,000 visitors , may dismay tourism chiefs, it was welcomed by its owners. In a statement, English Heritage said: "It is true that the site has lost some of its magic, but the fact is that it is the only UK World Heritage Site to have been nominated as one the New Seven Wonders of the World."
     Last year, planning permission was refused for a new visitor centre at Stonehenge but English Heritage plans to appeal against the decision in December. It also said that the much-needed improvements to the A303 - which have been endorsed at a public inquiry - were now subject to a government review as a result of cost increases.

Sources: BBC News, Telegraph (3 November 2006), The Independent (4 November 2006)

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