Culture minister says £27m visitor centre now back on track

The government has agreed a £5.5m funding package designed to see the Denton Corker Marshall-designed plans for a new £27m visitor centre for Stonehenge to go ahead.

The money will have to be supplemented by private funding, but culture secretary John Penrose claimed it put the troubled scheme back on track.

He said the government had “almost” secured the necessary private funding, and English Heritage said the project could start on site as soon as next year.

The funding includes allowing English Heritage to access £2m from its reserves, and £3.5m from the Highways Agency to make necessary improvements to the road junction around the ancient monument.

John Penrose said: “This is fantastic news for everyone involved in the project.

“It is a real step forward in making sure this World Heritage Site – a unique and iconic symbol of our prehistoric past – is not simply preserved, but also presented in the best possible light for visitors in the future.

“It was bitterly disappointing when the country’s dire financial state meant we had to withdraw government funding for the visitor centre here last June.

“The plans announced today mean that a successful outcome for this project is now a lot closer. There may still be a bit further to go, but we are optimistic English Heritage will be successful in securing the remaining funding that is required.”

Dr Simon Thurley, chief executive of English Heritage said: “These are crucial steps that bring closer the transformation of the currently blighted Stonehenge landscape.

“We are grateful to the government for their forthright support for this important project particularly at a time when money is so tight. We now need to secure the last permissions and raise the final elements of funding.

“I am confident that we will be able to do both in time to start work next year.”