Stonehenge restoration plan meets brick wall

Plans to liberate Stonehenge from its chain-link fences, ugly car park and miserable tea bar have been scuppered by the Millennium Commission's refusal to contribute pounds 20m of lottery money.

The project, which would have enabled everyone from Druids to day-trippers to enjoy free access to the 5,000-year-old stone circle, was announced yesterday by a bitterly disappointed Sir Jocelyn Stevens, chairman of English Heritage.

Stung by a Commons report in 1992 that Stonehenge was "a national disgrace", Sir Jocelyn made it his goal to restore the stones and surrounding Wiltshire downland to their prehistoric grandeur.

But the Millennium Commission was reluctant to put lottery money into a project partly funded by a private company wanting a commercial return on its investment. The Tussauds Group was to put in pounds 10m and then charge visitors pounds 6.75 a head entry to a high-tech interpretation centre.

Stonehenge is the most important Megalithic site in Europe and ranks alongside the Pyramids and the Great Wall of China as a world heritage site. But tourists, who come thousands of miles to visit the stones, go away appalled at their state.

"It is hard to think of another world heritage site anywhere which is more famous and more badly presented," Sir Jocelyn said. "But it is more than just a tourist attraction. The stones are the beginning of civilisation in this country and have a unique and awesome mystery."

A week ago, in a desperate attempt to save the project, Sir Jocelyn disclosed that his original 6,000-acre Millennium Park plan had been scaled down, cutting the cost from pounds 80m to pounds 44m and halving the sum needed from the lottery.

Under the revised plan, the car park and visitor centre were moved to within 1km of the stones, cutting out a much-criticised "Disneyland" trackless train, and free access was introduced. Last year 725,000 visitors each paid pounds 3.70 to visit Stonehenge and another 250,000 peered through the fence by the A344.

Free entry won a favourable response from Chris Smith, the Secretary of State for National Heritage. But although greater public access to the nation's treasures is a Labour ambition, it did not sway Mr Smith in his capacity as chairman of the Millennium Commission.

At a meeting chaired by Mr Smith, the commissioners decided it would "not be worthwhile" for English Heritage to continue its bid. The quango has spent pounds 2m over four frustrating years developing the project. But a spokeswoman for the Commission said: "We've been incredibly oversubscribed and they are in competition with an awful lot of other projects."

Rejection leaves the stones blighted by ugly facilities and fences and at risk of being destabilised by lorries thundering along two main roads. The stones can be felt "vibrating", according to Sir Jocelyn. Some 20,000 vehicles pass the site each day.

Under the ill-fated plan, the A344 adjacent to the stones would have been grassed over, becoming a footpath across 2,000 acres of uncluttered downland. What to do with the busier A303 lies with the Department of Transport which has balked at the idea of a pounds 300m dual tunnel under the site.

Mr Smith will meet Sir Jocelyn soon to discuss the continuing dilemma. Sir Jocelyn believes that a solution for Stonehenge will require action at Cabinet level.

It is possible he would have better luck joining the Druids at the stones for the Solstice and offering his prayers.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
Life and Style
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Teaching Assistant in secondary school Manchester

£11280 - £14400 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Teaching a...

Primary teaching roles in Ipswich

£21552 - £31588 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education re...

Science teachers needed in Norwich

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Science teachers requ...

Semi Senior Accountant - Music

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful, Central London bas...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits