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Wednesday 31st July, 2002, 16:00 BST
Stonehenge plans revealed
Artist's impression of Stonehenge's new visitor centre
Artist's impression: A new look for an ancient monument
Wiltshire's famous Stonehenge is to get a massive facelift. £57m - much of it from the Lottery - will be spent on the Stone Circle.

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Stonehenge Masterplan

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English Heritage

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Countess Road Residents' Group

The National Trust

The Highways Agency

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Stonehenge is a World Heritage Site on a par with Bath and The Pyramids in Egypt.

830,000 people a year visit Stonehenge spending just over half-an-hour at the stone circle.

More than £57M is to be spent on upgrading the facilities and improving Stonehenge's environment.

A new visitor centre will be placed away from the monument.

It is planned to close the existing A344 and create a 2km section of the A303 under the site in a tunnel.

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The plans aim to transform the monument from "a national disgrace" to a World Heritage site to fit its international status.

The money will go on providing improved access to the stones, and a new centre and facilities to cater for the millions who visit each year.

"It's more than £26M in two tranches, and at least £10M from the government," said chairman of English Heritage, Sir Neil Cossons, at today's unveiling.

The current visitor centre at Stonehenge
Squalor: the current visitor centre at Stonehenge

"The project is alive, we're going to go for this, it's the scheme that everybody wants and I think it's going to be a breathtaking and in everyway, appropriate answer to the long running squalor of Stonehenge and its visitor facilities," he added.

Landowners, the National Trust, will also organise funding for improvements to the landscape which will include opening up the ancient site in Wiltshire to give the fullest access ever with options for exploring the World Heritage site from a variety of new routes and drop-off points.

Sir Neil Cossons, chairman of English Heritage said the new visitor centre would be placed outside of the archaeologically sensitive site.

Architect's model of new Stonehenge visitor centre
Part of the model showing the layout for the new visitor centre

The new visitor centre will give tourists a short introductory multi-media presentation - in one of two film theatres - on the midsummer and midwinter solstice events and will also explain the theories of astronomy at Stonehenge in a dramatic new film and animated graphics.

"The importance of today's announcement cannot be underestimated. These funds are the key to reuniting archaeological landscape rich with ceremonial monuments spanning over 10,000 years.

"Visitors to Stonehenge deserve better than this and at long last they will be able to engage with the wonder of the Stonehenge landscape as never before."

A303 past Stonehenge
Stonehenge Master Plan: goodbye to the A303?

The other half of the "Master Plan" for the prehistoric monument, controversial plans to alter the roads around Stonehenge, are still under consideration by the Highways Agency.

A spokesman for the Highways Agency said at the announcement today that draft road plans should be complete by January 2003 with a public inquiry expected to be held in the autumn of 2003.

The plans for improved access and the new visitor centre are hoped to be complete by 2006.

Construction of the road scheme is likely to start in 2005 and be complete by 2008.

If you have strong feelings about the future of Stonehenge, see BBC Wiltshire's Stoned Section and share your thoughts.

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