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STONEHENGE VISITOR CENTRE
Stonehenge is one of the most important and loved prehistoric monuments in the world. It has stood on Salisbury Plain for thousands of years, evocative and enigmatic, arousing awe and wonder in each generation that has gazed upon it. As a World Heritage Site, it is a testimony to mankinds creativity, ingenuity and engineering skills. This is quite a topic for researchers and their thesis https://primeessays.com/how-to-write-a-thesis-for-dummies/
However, everyone agrees it deserves a better setting and visitors deserve a better experience. Over the years, there have been several attempts to do something about it and we are delighted that in xMay our latest proposals were given the go-ahead in principle by the Government. Airmans Corner was announced as the selected location for a new visitor centre together with the closure of the A344. That decision was based on the results of a three-month consultation in the summer of 2008, as well as extensive technical and feasibility studies.
Details of our plans for a new visitor centre and for transport and access to Stonehenge are available on this website.
As a World Heritage Site (WHS), Stonehenge and its surroundings are powerful witness to the once great civilisations of the Stone and Bronze Ages. Its WHS status requires the UK Government to conserve and communicate its Outstanding Universal Value to present and future generations.
Today Stonehenge is severely compromised. Busy roads cut it off from surrounding monuments and landscape and, most importantly, from the Avenue its ancient processional approach. Visitor facilities and parking so close to the Stones represents a significant visual intrusion at the centre of the WHS.
The facilities themselves are basic and cramped and there is no space for education or exhibitions. The shop is regularly overcrowded, and refreshments are only available from an outdoor kiosk. Parking is inadequate, overflowing onto adjoining fields at busy times.
The need to care for Stonehenge properly has been recognised for many years. Improvement to its landscape setting and presentation to visitors are identified as priorities in the WHS Management Plan, the agreed framework for the sites management.
The proposals to address this need have been agreed by a group of key stakeholders led by English Heritage which includes: the National Trust, the Highways Agency, Natural England, Wiltshire Council and the South West of England Regional Development Agency.
A three month public consultation on the future of Stonehenge took place between July 15th and October 17th 2008. It sought views and feedback from members of the public and other stakeholders on the proposed environmental improvements and on draft revisions to the World Heritage Site Management Plan (WHSMP).
A range of consultation materials were produced, a booklet was emailed to 14,500 households in the vicinity, public exhibitions were held in Amesbury, Salisbury and London.
The proposed scheme and selected location
Following a lengthy consultation and extensive technical assessments, the Prime Minister announced on 13 May this year that Airmans Corner would be the location for new Stonehenge visitor facilities. Together with proposals for the closure of the A344 where it runs adjacent to the Stones, the scheme will enhance the monuments setting by removing the existing visitor facilities (including car parking) and improve the visitor experience with new exhibition and education facilities. A fully accessible transit system will run from the new visitor centre to a drop-off near the Stones.
Airmans Corner is about 1.5 miles (2.5km) west from Stonehenge, on the junction of the A344 and A360. It is at the edge of the World Heritage Site and is easily accessible by road. The land is currently used for farming, with very few residents living close to the site.
The appraisal of options for the new visitor centre carried out in 2008 identified the land to the south east of the Airmans Corner junction as being the most suitable in terms of archaeology, ecology, accessibility and visibility in the landscape.
This scheme, proposed by English Heritage, is supported by many stakeholders including South West Tourism and neighbouring landowners.
A more dignified setting for Stonehenge
At the heart of our proposals is the desire to reconnect the subtle relationship the Stones have with the landscape that our ancestors treasured.
Closing the A344 from Stonehenge Bottom to the Stones will reunite the monument with its ancient processional Avenue and improve the landscape setting of the Stones, fulfilling the commitment made by the UK government in 1986 when Stonehenge was designated as a World Heritage Site.
Restricting vehicular traffic on the A344 between the Stones and Airmans Corner, and on Byways 11 and 12, will reduce the visual impact of traffic on the monuments and landscape, as well as improving the experience of pedestrians using these routes.
Removal of the current car park and facilities will result in more land reverting to the ecologically rich grassland of the Stonehenge landscape. Only a minimal operations facility will remain, carefully concealed in the landscape.
An appropriate welcome to a world famous site
Stonehenge is one of the worlds top tourist attractions. Our proposal will provide visitors with the high quality facilities they expect in a new environmentally sensitive visitor centre.
All design elements will be considered in terms of sustainability and access for all. The designs simplicity will allow the centre to be built with minimal disturbance to the landscape.
The architectural concept is for a delicately undulating canopy which sits lightly in the landscape with a pair of self-contained pods one transparent and mainly of glass, the other solid and mainly of timber - sitting beneath.
The roof is perforated at the edges to allow patterns of sun and shade to soften the solidity of the structure and moves to echo the rolling form of the surrounding landscape. The exhibition areas, café, shop and toilets will be housed in the pods providing opportunities for interpretation and education, and the centre will be linked to the Stones by a low-key transit system.
The facility will be constructed using local and sustainable building materials where possible. The new café will offer high quality meals, snacks and drinks, whilst a larger shop will provide space for a greater range of souvenirs and books. The improved facilities will greatly enhance a visit to the Stonehenge World Heritage Site.
New exhibition and education facilities
For the first time, the new visitor centre will enable us to provide a much needed introduction to Stonehenge, helping visitors to understand, appreciate and enjoy this unique place.
New exhibition spaces will make the story of Stonehenge accessible and engaging for everyone, whatever their age and interests, and through a variety of media will equip visitors to explore the monuments and landscape. One idea is to draw on recent archaeological discoveries in the World Heritage Site by recreating buildings contemporary with Stonehenge which were found within Durrington Walls in the north-east corner of the World Heritage Site.
Stonehenge receives over 40,000 education visitors every year from both the UK and around the world. A new, multi-functional education base at the visitor centre will provide space for school groups to conduct workshops and hands on activities, with a dedicated bag storage and lunch area. Community groups and family activities will also be catered for.
Opportunities for learning and discovery will continue as visitors move into the landscape. English Heritage is considering the possibility of visitors collecting a portable audio or video guide to accompany their journey through the landscape to the Stones and beyond.
A broader experience of Stonehenge and its landscape
The Stonehenge monument sits in one of the richest archaeological landscapes in Europe, including other henges, processional avenues and burial mounds. Our proposal will give visitors a much broader and more varied experience, encouraging them to discover the magic of the Stone Circle in its setting, rather than just a place in isolation.
A low-key visitor transit system will run from the visitor centre to a drop-off point close to the Stones, offering visitors opportunities to appreciate the landscape of the World Heritage Site and to view the surrounding monuments. A 4-trailer visitor transit system similar to that currently running at the Eden Project in Cornwall will be used. The distance between the visitor centre and the drop-off point is 2 km, making a round trip journey 20 minutes. Each set of four trailers will have 72 seats and will have provision for disabled passengers. There will be four sets in operation at busy times.
There will be a greater sense of openness and tranquility around the Stone Circle, without the noise, visual intrusion and fumes of traffic on the A344. The high chain link fence will be replaced by more appropriate stock fencing and other fences removed where possible.
A variety of walking routes will be available, and visitors will be able to choose whether to head directly to the Stones or to spend more time in the landscape.
Transportation and safety
Closing the A344/A303 junction
Removing the A344 from Stonehenge Bottom to Byway 12 near the Stones
Restricting vehicular traffic on the A344 between Byway 12 near the Stones and Airmans Corner, and motorised vehicles on Byways 11 and 12
Traffic removed from the A344 will be directed along the A360 via the Longbarrow Roundabout and Airmans Corner junctions, both of which will be modified to accommodate the re-directed traffic.
The combined effect of these changes will deliver environmental improvements for Stonehenge and an enhanced experience for visitors.
The A303/A344 junction itself is renowned as an accident black-spot; its closure will reduce the risk of accidents in this location and was strongly supported by local residents in the public consultation in 2008.
English Heritage, the Highways Agency and Wiltshire Council are working together to ensure that the effects of these changes to the local road network are carefully managed.
Parking for cars will be located adjacent to the new visitor centre on land to the south east of Airmans Corner, with a separate coach park nearby. Every effort has been made to reduce the visual impact of car and coach parking on the surrounding landscape.
Frequently Asked Questions
1.There have been so many different schemes what makes you think this one will actually go ahead?
This is a pragmatic and practical scheme, and more affordable than previous proposals. It is widely agreed that the improvements it will deliver are urgently needed, and there is strong support from the Government and from all key stakeholders.
2.Will the existing facilities be closed once the new VC is open, given that they are so close to the Stones?
Yes, once the new visitor centre is open, the existing car park and visitor facilities will be removed and returned to grassland, leaving only a minimal security and operations base within the footprint of the current facilities.
3.How much of the current visitor facilities will be kept?
The A344 road between Stonehenge Bottom and Byway 12 will be removed as will the existing car park and visitor facilities, leaving only a minimal security and operations base, with emergency toilet facilities, within the footprint of the current shop and refreshments kiosk. This will be a small building, about 100 sq. metres, lying mostly beneath ground level and accessed via the existing ramp. The total site area occupied by this much reduced hub is just 4% of that occupied by the current facilities and car/coach park.
4.How did you decide on the new location for the VC?
Airmans Corner was recommended to Ministers as the location for new visitor facilities by a group of stakeholders led by English Heritage and including the National Trust, the Highways Agency, Natural England and the South West of England Regional Development Agency.
A number of possible options were shortlisted early in 2008; extensive technical assessments were carried out, along with a three month public consultation on the options.
5.Where will the Airmans Cross memorial be sited?
We believe that the memorial should remain close to the Airmans Corner junction and to the spot where the aeroplane crashed in 1912, killing the two members of the Royal Flying Corps memorialised by the Cross. However, it will need to be moved in order to undertake the proposed works to the Airmans Corner junction (it has moved at least twice already in the past).
If the memorial was to be returned to its present position, it would be in the middle of the proposed roundabout, making access to it unsafe. Initial discussions with interested parties and with the English Heritage design team have indicated that a better location for the memorial would be just to the south east of the proposed roundabout. This would make access safer and would in fact be slightly closer to the site of the accident.
6.The new Visitor Centre isnt next to the Stones how long will it take me to get from there to the Stones and how will I get there?
A fully accessible visitor transit service will be available to all visitors; it will run from the new visitor centre to a drop-off point near the Stones, and the journey will take about twelve minutes.
7.Is there full disabled access to the Stones?
Disabled visitors, including wheelchair users, will be able to visit Stonehenge just as they do now. The new facilities and visitor transit vehicles will all be fully accessible.
8.Can people walk or cycle near the Stone Circle without going through the VC?
Much of the land near to Stonehenge is managed by the National Trust for free open pedestrian access, and there are a number of public rights of way within and around the Stonehenge World Heritage Site.
Cyclists and pedestrians will continue to have access along the A344 between Airmans Corner and Byway 12 and along Byway 12 itself.
9.Will the car parking you propose be adequate?
The level of car parking proposed is based on our knowledge of visitor arrival patterns. We will use advance ticketing at peak periods (at least) in order to manage visitor flow.
10.With the new VC, will you be trying to attract greater numbers of visitors to the Stones in future?
In developing a new visitor centre it is not the intention to increase visitor numbers but to offer visitors a better experience.
On peak days, demand will be managed in a way that fulfils but controls access, as is the case at many sensitive visitor attractions. We will be introducing an advanced ticketing system for peak periods which will allow us to manage visitor numbers more effectively.
11.Why have you spread the development over such a large area by locating the car park so far to the south?
The development aims to be reversible and to have the lowest impact on the site. Several areas of site are too steep to accommodate car parking or building so these have been avoided in order to minimise cut and fill. Therefore the parking areas and building are sited on the flatter areas of the site.
12.Will the A344 be closed?
Yes, that is the proposal. An integral of part of the scheme is the closure of the A303/A344 junction and the A344 between Stonehenge Bottom and Airmans Corner. This would improve the setting of the Stones.
13.Closing the A344 will result in more traffic remaining on to the A303 how will it cope? Will more traffic seek to avoid the A303 and rat-run along local roads?
Improvements will be made to the existing road junctions of the A303/A360 (Longbarrow Roundabout) and the A303/A344 (Airmans Corner) to accommodate the re-routed traffic. The improvement at Longbarrow in particular will ensure the traffic will be able to negotiate the junction without any delays increasing significantly, beyond those that would be experienced in any event with the A344 remaining open. This will limit any further tendency for traffic to rat-run along local roads, beyond that which is happening anyway when drivers seek to avoid congested conditions on the A303.
14.Why are you not widening the A303?
Following the review of the A303 Stonehenge Improvement scheme in December 2007, the Government decided there was no acceptable alternative to tunnelling the A303 past the Stones, but that the cost (in excess of £500m) did not represent best use of taxpayers money. Accordingly the Government withdrew proposals for widening of the A303 through the area of the World Heritage Site.
The Highways Agency is responsible for the A303 trunk road and will continue to investigate possible small scale improvements to the A303 as part of their overall stewardship of route, but major upgrading of the route is no longer proposed.
15.Will you be digging up the full length of the closed section of the A344?
A surfaced route will remain between Airmans Corner and Byway 12, and will become the route of the new visitor transit system.
The options for the final design of the road treatment are still being assessed. These include total removal of the surface between Stonehenge Bottom and Byway 12; and the partial break up of the surface which would then be grassed over but left in situ.
16.When will the A344 be closed if the plans proceed?
Assuming the project receives planning consent with the associated statutory processes being completed during 2010, the works at Longbarrow Crossroads and Airmans Corner would proceed in 2011/12, for those improvements to be completed before the A344 is closed in 2012, before the Olympics.
17.Are you removing any existing rights of way/footpaths or cycle routes?
We are currently looking at options for alternative access for those pedestrians and cyclists who currently use the A344 from the A303 to Byway 12, since it is our intention to remove the road surfaces in this location.
Pedestrian and cycle access will not be affected on any other rights of way within the World Heritage Site, and the proposals to restrict use by motorised traffic would improve the experience of many walkers and cyclists using these routes.
In order to meet the target set by the Government of opening the new visitor centre in 2012, the following key milestones will need to be achieved:
July 2009 - Exhibition about our plans
Autumn 2009 - Submission of planning application
Autumn/Winter 2009 - Wiltshire Council consultation and planning commitee decision
2011 - Construction starts
2012 - New Visitor Centre opens
English Heritage is committed to engagement with local residents and the wider community. It is important for us to hear your opinions and we appreciate your taking the time to visit this exhibition and share your views on our proposals.
It is our intention to keep local residents, community groups and businesses fully informed throughout the planning process, and we will be sending out regular newsletters updating you on progress.
English Heritage exists to protect and promote Englands precious historic environment and ensures that the past is conserved and understood for the benefit of present and future generations.
It was established by the National Heritage Act 1983 and is an executive non-departmental body with a Commission appointed by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).
As the Governments statutory advisor on the historic environment, English Heritage looks after Stonehenge on behalf of the nation, along with over 400 other historic properties.
English Heritage receives around 75% of its funding from DCMS and the remainder is self-generated from commercial activity and fund-raising.
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