The ‘sustainable and affordable’ new Stonehenge visitor centre has been scrapped, because the government can’t afford it. The 25m ($37m) project, which was given the go-ahead in January by then-Culture Secretary Andy Burnham, has been axed after a review of all government spending decisions made since the beginning of the year.
The news will come as a huge shock to English Heritage, owners of Stonehenge, and local and national tourism firms, who have hoped the new centre, 1.5 miles away from the stone circle, could make Stonehenge a more attractive proposal. The timing of the move seems particularly bad with millions set to flock to England ahead of the 2012 London Olympics.
The plan comprised two single-storey buildings with exhibition space, a caf and toilet facilities, joining Stonehenge via a transit system. The controversial A344 main road, which runs just feet from the ancient landmark, was scheduled to be grassed over, with Wiltshire Council seeking a Traffic Regulation Order to limit the number of vehicles passing by.
The scrapping will come as welcome news for one governmental design watchdog, who last year branded the plans ‘twee’ and ‘more appropriate for an urban garden.’ Yet it is widely accepted that Stonehenge’s current facilities are woefully outdated, with little more than a coffee and a car parking space available. The news won’t, however, stop 40,000 people flood to the stones for this weekend’s summer solstice. Click here for a guide to the event, or here to view alternative places to see in the midsummer sun aside from Stonehenge Virtual.