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27 September 2016
Neolithic tomb in Orkney to close over safety fears

One of Orkney's most popular ancient landmarks is to be closed to the public due to concerns over safety. Historic Environment Scotland (HES) has announced that Maes Howe, the biggest and most impressive of Orkney's Neolithic chambered cairns, will be shut down by the end of September.
     The site attracts around 25,000 visitors annually and the temporary closure has been ordered because of dangers in accessing the site, with visitors using its car park having to cross one of the Orkney mainland's busiest roads. HES has been monitoring safety issues relating to vehicle movements around the 5,000-year-old tomb, and concluded there are significant risks to staff and visitors that cannot currently be overcome. It has been decided that the site will close from 26 September, with staff being redeployed to other roles. Maes Howe will not reopen until the issues have been addressed.
     Dr David Mitchell, acting chief executive and director of conservation at HES, said: "This is not a decision we take lightly, but our primary focus must be the safety of our staff and visitor. The HES board recently considered a development proposal which looked at the site infrastructure. They wish to discuss the project further with Orkney Islands Council. This was a catalyst for us to reassess the risks associated with the site, and in consequence we have decided to effect a temporary site closure until the identified risk can be mitigated to a satisfactory level." He added: "In the longer term, we are absolutely committed to finding a long-term solution for this site and working with our partners to conserve and share the wonderful heritage assets in Orkney."

Edited from The Scotsman (8 September 2016)

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