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Stonehenge

Volume 645: debated on Tuesday 25 July 1961

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7.

asked the Minister of Works what are his present proposals for improving the public facilities for visitors to Stonehenge.

Facilities are at present provided in three rather obtrusive structures. Because of the increased number of visitors these are no longer adequate. I therefore wish to tidy up the site and provide proper facilities in one building, which, unlike the present structures, would be invisible from the Stones. But the National Trust, which owns the land, feels unable to agree. I regret that I can make no further headway without the co-operation of the Trust.

I thank the Minister for that reply, but will he appreciate that there is increasing public interest in Stonehenge; that greater facilities are required, but that it is equally desirable that any new building should be so sited as not to destroy the natural detachment and isolation of the site? Will he do his best to continue his negotiations with the National Trust with a view to getting an agreed solution?

I will, indeed. I should tell the House that the Ancient Monuments Board for England supports my proposals as being a definite improvement of what is there now, just as I myself support the Board's long-term view that the perfect solution involves the closure of A.344 where it passes the monument. In the meantime, the Board agrees that what I propose to do is an improvement on what is there now, but I cannot go on with it until I have the agreement of the Trust.

Will my right hon. Friend set my mind at rest? I am rather afraid that the intention is to bury Stonehenge.

There is no more danger of my burying Stonehenge than that that same fate awaits my hon. Friend.

Since the closure of A.344 is the only satisfactory solution to a very intractable problem, will the Minister have urgent discussions with his right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport to see whether his right hon. Friend cannot press ahead with this rerouteing?

I think that the hon. Gentleman will realise that this must lie some way ahead, but I certainly do not mean to lose sight of it. It is the right answer. Meanwhile, I cannot see why we should not do as well as we can temporarily, and that is precisely what I have asked to be allowed to do.