The voice of archaeology in Britain and beyond

Cover of British Archaeology 102

Issue 102

Sept / Oct 2008



Windfarm dig finds boat in style of Sutton Hoo

Prehistoric village under Isle of Man runway

Rare house continues first farmers debate

In the press

In Brief & Phase 2


Hadrian in London
The 'Hadrian: Empire and Conflict' exhibiton is impressive

Hadrian's Wall
Abandoned after three centuries, but still alive

New WHS, the Antonine Wall
David J Breeze tells how to make a successful bid to UNESCO

THE BIG DIG: Stonehenge
Mike Pitts sorts out the technical data

additional content
Reading about the Archaeology of Stonehenge

The Stonehenge Olympics
Plans for the stones to get the new facilities ready for 2012

on the web

Recommended websites
Caroline Wickham-Jones explores the realms of archaeological fiction and a look at Barwick-in-Elmet Historical Society's website


your views and responses


a piece about Bonekickers with no archaeological puns!


Seeking what is best for buried bones, Sebastian Payne looks at new leglislation

CBA correspondent

Campaigns, comment and communications from the CBA
Gill Chitty on the stones, the bill and beyond


ISSN 1357-4442

Editor Mike Pitts


The Stonehenge Olympics

A three month consultation on the latest Stonehenge proposals ended on October 17. Thanks to a deadline set by the 2012 Olympics, for better or worse this time something will happen. Mike Pitts introduces your options.

Airman's Corner

Airman's Corner at the summer solstice (option Y).

You will know about the schemes to improve Stonehenge: the proposed road diversions that together would have paved half of southern England, a visitor centre option for every molehill in the world heritage site and, though nothing was achieved, a government research bill several times the cost of the first considered solution. If all that feels almost plausible, unfortunately the last point is actually true. In 1985, the first of the modern studies (even then, this was no new game) reported on a number of alternative "long-term solutions" for Stonehenge. The most expensive cost £6.2m. Last year it was revealed that the process of putting off the decision on what to do, had cost the Department for Culture Media and Sport and the Department for Transport nearly £38m (feature, Mar/Apr).

The recent debate, including two public inquiries, occurred during a time of economic optimism, when the government had money to spend (an extra £5bn on the National Health Service in one year, for example). Things are very different now, as what looks increasingly like a genuine recession sets in.

The government announced it was scrapping the approved Stonehenge roads scheme on grounds of cost last December. The day before, the DCMS said it was to give Tate Modern £50m towards its gallery extension, a gesture, it was hoped, that would ensure its opening in time for the Olympics. Now that seems unlikely, as fundraising gets tough. Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota is happy to say that his extension may not be ready till 2014.

Present car park

The present car park (option V).

Nonetheless, the government is set on opening new facilities at Stonehenge "in time for the 2012 Olympics, when the UK is expecting to welcome large additional numbers of overseas visitors". Assisting this process will be a review of the world heritage site management plan. Depending on their precise location, yet to be determined, at least three and possibly all five of the "visitor facilities" (the term "visitor centre" is avoided) would be within the world heritage site: this would contravene a "key principle" of the existing management plan that new facilities should be "outside the boundary of the WHS to avoid undermining [its] values and significance".

The proposed visitor options, like the management review, are now open to consultation. This is what we know.

What will the new facilities offer? There will be "better interpretation" of the WHS, with a café, larger shop and improved amenities, in a building about three times the size of the present services. There will be coach and car parking, some of it in a reinforced grass overflow area, with about twice the spaces currently available.

Map Thumbnail

Map showing the five proposed locations for new Stonehenge visitor facilities. Click the image to view larger version.

Where will the new facilities be? There are five options (see map, right). They range from redevelopment on the footprint of the existing site (V, with parking there, at Airman's Corner or Rollestone Camp), to facilities at Rollestone (Z) with park and ride links to both Fargo Plantation (X) and DurringtonDown Farm(W). Altogether there are 11 permutations of possible links and drop-off points.

How will visitors reach the stones? From the remoter locations at Rollestone Camp and Airman's Corner there would be a park and ride link (eg on low-emission buses) to take people to drop-offs within walking distance of the stones. From there or the two closer options that also locate new parking or facilities away from Stonehenge, assistance would be provided for those unable to walk to the site. At Stonehenge itself, the approach will be across grassland (see roads). The present road underpass is not mentioned, but will presumably be closed or removed.

What would the site impacts be? It is said that a principle behind the shortlist was that all sites should "avoid significant impact on the outstanding universal value of the world heritage site and on local communities". The most sensitive sites archaeologically are Fargo (six scheduled monuments) and Durrington (one scheduled monument); at least some archaeological excavation would almost certainly be required at all sites, even the existing footprint. New facilities at Fargo or Durrington are said to "present a significant design challenge to avoid adverse impacts on the outstanding universal value".

How much would it cost? This is to be assessed.

When will it happen? A planning application will be submitted in summer 2009, with further public consultation. Construction is expected to occur in 2011, with the new facilities scheduled to open in early 2012.

Are the new facilities intended to be permanent? "They reversible, allowing for easy removal in the future."

A303/A344 junction

The proposed changes would leave the A303 (foreground) but remove the A344 rising to the right, as far as the present car park.

Who is in charge? English Heritage leads a project implementation group which reports to a new Stonehenge Project Board, chaired by the ministers for culture and transport.

What about the roads? Closure of the A344 is proposed from the A303 junction to Airman's Corner (see map), with the carriageway removed and grassed over between the A303 and the present facilities (V). This would have a significant benefit in connecting Stonehenge with the landscape and monuments to the north, as well as improved safety around Stonehenge.

How would closing the A344 affect other roads? Diverted traffic would increase pressure on the A360 and the A303, and on the Airman's Corner junction and Long Barrow Crossroads roundabout. For example, if the road changes were implemented by 2012, in that year they would be responsible for an estimated further 4,750 vehicles on the A303 every day. The background traffic is forecast to continue increasing.

Would any other roadworks be undertaken? Changes to other roads would be in the form of mitigation only, with improvements at Long Barrow Crossroads (including widening the A303 within the WHS and "within the existing highway boundaries"), changes at Airman's Corner and possible changes at Rollestone Camp.

Why review the world heritage site management plan now? The present plan was published in 2000. Such plans "should be reviewed periodically. It is particularly necessary to revise this plan now because of government decisions on the a303 proposals".

Who is reviewing it? The Stonehenge world heritage site committee, with help from the world heritage site advisory forum, a wider stakeholder body, and English Heritage.

What do they say about a visitor centre? "The long-term objectives for the reduction of the impact of the A303 within the WHS, and the creation of a permanent world class visitor centre should be kept under review."

How do I find out more? Go to or phone 08450 264409. You can respond through the website or on printed forms.

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