|24 November 2010
Huge grant to revamp the area around Stonehenge
Stonehenge is getting a 10 million-pound (US$15.8 million) grant that conservators say will help restore some dignity to a World Heritage site blighted by busy roads and cramped facilities. English Heritage said that it now has about two-thirds of the money it needs to revamp the area around the prehistoric circle of stones, although the group acknowledged the improvements probably wouldn't come in time for the 2012 Olympic Games, when hordes of tourists are expected to descend on the site.
The monument's vista is blighted by two busy roads, one of which runs right by it, and Stonehenge's visitor center is also inadequate, with vehicle traffic spilling out onto the grassy area nearby during peak periods. There's only one outdoor refreshment kiosk to serve the nearly 1 million visitors who see the site every year. The proposed centre would consist of a pair of single-storey areas of glass and timber about a mile-and-a-half (2.4km) west of the prehistoric stones. The visitor centre's facilities would include exhibition and education facilities, a cafe, shop and toilets, while a transit system would transport visitors to the World Heritage Site.
A 25 million-pound (US$40 million) plan to redo the site was derailed when the cash-strapped British government moved to curtail public spending earlier this year, but English Heritage continues to seek money from other sources. The new 10 million-pound grant is being awarded by the Heritage Lottery Foundation, which uses money raised through the national lottery to refurbish museums, parks and archaeological areas. English Heritage spokeswoman Renee Fok says the cash, plus other money, puts the group two thirds of the way to its goal.
Baroness Andrews, chair of English Heritage, said: "We are tremendously grateful for this generous grant. Not only does it help to narrow the funding gap for the project considerably, it also sends out a message of confidence about the transformational benefits that the project will bring - to tourism, local economy and the conservation and public enjoyment of Stonehenge and its landscape."
Wiltshire Council Leader Jane Scott said it was a boost for Wiltshire's tourist industry and economy at a time when spending cuts were in the headlines. "We will be working with English Heritage to make Stonehenge an even greater experience for the thousands of visitors who come into our county to see what is undoubtedly one of the most iconic sites in the world," she added.
More information about the proposed visitor centre available at www.stonehengevisitorcentre.org
Edited from BBC News, PhysOrg (19 November 2010)
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