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Friday, April 23, 1999 Published at 23:01 GMT 00:01 UK


Fences come down at Stonehenge

The mysterious stone circle is thought to be 5000 years old

Plans to restore the site around Stonehenge to how it may have been thousands of years ago were announced on Friday.

The Stonehenge Master Plan will remove nearby roads and improve the ancient monument's setting.

Toby Sealey for Radio 5 Live: The UK's most famous World Heritage Site
Fences, one of which was erected at the turn of the century and the other in the 1970s, are to be removed as part of the scheme being launched at London's Canary Wharf by Culture Secretary Chris Smith and Roads Minister Lord Whitty.

While returning more to its 5000-year-old appearance, the World Heritage Site will also move into the 21st century with its own logo and visitor centre.

The stone circle currently stands close to a road junction near Amesbury, Wiltshire, near the busy A344 and A303 trunk roads.

Under the Master Plan, the A344 will be closed off and the A303 re-routed through a tunnel, said a spokeswoman for English Heritage.

[ image: The stones are close to a major road]
The stones are close to a major road
The surrounding landscape is to be restored, encouraging wildlife to return to the area, and a new state-of-the art visitor centre is to be built nearby.

"Once the roads have gone, we hope to return the surrounding landscape to chalk grassland and open up the area so people can walk across the site without fencing and without having to pay," said the spokeswoman.

"The visitor centre will be built just outside with a park and ride facility providing access to the site.

"Once again the stones will be sitting isolated in the landscape. It will be cleared of 20th century development."

Work on the roads is expected to be finished by 2008 and the visitor centre is due to be completed in 2003, at a total cost of about £125m.

Sir Jocelyn Stevens, Chairman of English Heritage, and Charles Nunneley, Chairman of the National Trust, were also at Friday's launch.

Sir Jocelyn said the Master Plan would rescue the Stones and the 451 scheduled monuments that surround them from the impact of traffic and the current ugly and inadequate visitor facilities.

"Constable, like many other artists, authors and poets over generations, found inspiration in the power of this great monument in its isolated setting," he said.

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