English Heritage is breaching planning rules at Stonehenge, says Councillor

Stonehenge Visitor Centre

5:54am 25th November 2016

It's been almost three years since the new Stonehenge visitor centre opened and a public pathway that was promised as part of the planning deal STILL isn't open.

The grassed over A344 road was supposed to be re-opened as a walking and cycling route - with a deadline of two years.

Now, with the pathway still shut, the local Wiltshire Councillor claims English Heritage is breaching planning rules and there should be a public inquiry.

Ian West, who represents the Till and Wylye Valley told Spire FM, says it's a vital route:

"The road goes back in history, it was an ancient connection between Shrewton and West Amesbury. English Heritage are restricting 400 metres of that path, we want it open and we want to use it. As (English Heritage) signed a legal agreement, we think Wiltshire Council should act. Nobody else, apart from English Heritage would be allowed to do a thing like this we believe."

A344 when grassed over at Stonehenge

The A344 is seen on the right hand side of this picture - that's the pathway that's causing controversy

In a statement, English Heritage have explained their reasoning for the path not being open:

"English Heritage has been monitoring the establishment of the chalk grassland of the former A344 between Byway 12 and the A303 and has concluded that the grass surface is not sufficiently established to enable the use of the permissive path from Summer 2016, as originally hoped. Allowing visitors, cyclists and walkers access to it before the ground is ready would have a damaging effect on the grass and topsoil. English Heritage has asked Wiltshire Council for an extension of time for the reinstatement of the permissive path to allow the re-vegetated section of the A344 to fully establish. There is a path diversion through the National Trust field until the old A344 route is open."

Stonehenge Visitor Centre

There are calls for English Heritage to have action taken against them for breaching planning rules at the Stonehenge site.

Wiltshire Councillor Ian West represents the area:

"English Heritage should be treated the same as any other planning developer. I think action should be taken against them. There seems to be a culture at Wiltshire Council, from the top to the bottom, that whatever we do, we musn't upset English Heritage. I don't want to upset English Heritage, I've lived in the area all my life. All I want them to do is treat local residents with a bit of respect and they're not doing that."

The local member says, in his view, English Heritage should be fined for breaching those planning rules.

Councillor West wants to see some action:

"There's no reason why (the pathway) shouldn't be open. The conflict is that people who walk or cycle the route, they will nearly merge with people going into the stones. That's not our problem, (English Heritage) agreed to the legal agreement and we want it sorted."

Another concern raised has been about some trees, belonging to Wiltshire Council, that have been cut down on the edge of the expanded coach park on the site.

The authority put a condition into that application as the trees were considered to be a natural landscaping feature that would help cut down on the visual impact of the changes.

With regards to the trees being removed, English Heritage said:

"English Heritage can confirm that a contractor has removed seven beech trees as part of the early stages of construction for the improvements to the Stonehenge coach park. The removal of the trees is part of necessary works in order to install drainage for the new coach park infrastructure. The ground will shortly be reinstated and new beech trees will be planted to re-establish the tree line. We are in discussion with Wiltshire Council regarding this additional tree works and replanting."

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