Picture special: £25 million Stonehenge visitor centre plans revealed

By Mark Sheerin | 12 October 2009
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A picture of a computer-generated image of a visitor centre on grassland

(Above) A series of impressive computer-generated images have been released to accompany the planning application for the long-awaited visitor centre at Stonehenge. © English Heritage

Three months after sparking incendiary levels of furore by finalising plans for a new visitor centre at Stonehenge, English Heritage today revealed futuristic images of the proposed £25 million development as the planning application for the Airman's Corner building was formally submitted to Wiltshire Council.

The controversial designs, made by architects Denton Corker, are not visible from the sacred stones, standing more than a mile West of the site in a pair of single-storey glass and timber enclosures under an undulating roof.

A picture of a gravel road through fields

(Above) The current view of Stonehenge Byway 12. © English Heritage

"The application marks an important moment for realising improvements which are so badly needed," claimed Gerry Hamersley, Natural England's Area Manager for Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and the West of England, who said the blueprints aimed to ensure sightseers enjoyed the "cultural experience" alongside the "high quality and significance of the natural environment that surrounds it."

an architects digital recreation of a visitor centre

(Above) The forecourt of the new Visitors Centre. © English Heritage

Denton Corker director Stephen Quinlan said the project had been "a major challenge" and "serious responsibility" for the firm.

"If once back home a visitor can remember their visit to the stones but can't remember the visitor centre they passed through on the way, we will be happy," he admitted.

"Our proposal seeks not to compromise the solidity and timelessness of the Stones, but to satisfy the brief with a design which is universally accessible, environmentally sensitive, and at the same time appears almost transitory in nature."

A picture of fields

(Above) Airman's Corner now, viewed from the South. © English Heritage

A four-trailor transit shuttle based on the system used at Cornwall's Eden Project will take visitors to Stonehenge, replacing the current car park and A344 road at the Stones with grass.

Improvements to Longbarrow Crossroads, a Traffic Regulation Order and a roundabout are also proposed in the application.

"The designs reflect the unique landscape and cultural heritage of Stonehenge," said Sir Harry Studholme, chair of the South West Regional Development Agency."The new visitor centre should enhance the experience of visiting the Stones while at the same time acting as a gateway to our wonderful region."

A picture of a visitor centre in fields

(Above)Denton Corker Marshall's design for the Stonehenge Visitor Centre. Stonehenge is 1.5 miles to the East, on the right and out of view. © English Heritage

More than three-quarters of respondents to a public exhibition of the outline plans, released in July, said the new centre would "enhance visitors' experience", with 69% believing it improved the setting.

Salisbury City and Wiltshire Council member Paul Sample said the scheme was "a missed opportunity which will not serve the stones well" at the time, complaining that it fell "well short of our expectations."

A picture of a bird's eye view of sacred stones in a field

The current position of the A344 and the existing visitor car park. © English Heritage

A poll launched on his website saw 83% of visitors vote in favour of the plans, and his outspoken anxiety over the possible retention of the A344 will be addressed if the application goes through.

"The new centre is designed to blend into the World Heritage landscape which visitors will pass through on their way to the Stones," said Loraine Knowles, English Heritage's Stonehenge project director.

"It will provide enhanced opportunities for education and interpretation, and have first class facilities in keeping with Stonehenge's status as a world-renowned tourist attraction."

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