Sunday, 13 November 2016

English Heritage Plans to Block Historic Path at Stonehenge

English Heritage have failed to open the permissive path they are obliged to provide on the route of the old A344, which should have been done by summer 2016. They claim the grass surface won't be ready until 2017. It is no secret they wish they didn't have to provide this path despite it being an important historic route which will boost the sustainability and local access of the site.

The latest impediment to the permissive path is hidden away in a document where they are asking Wiltshire Council to approve a variation in how the Visitor Transit System works at the monument.

One small detail is they want to move a barbed wire and netting stock fence 3m from the field edge onto the route of the A344. Of course normally barbed wire fences are not erected alongside where people are queuing in large numbers so there is no practical reason to do so. Leaving the fence where it is and using crowd barriers is more sensible if they want to corral the visitors.

But if they do erect the barbed wire fence there then, as they point out, there is no room for pedestrians to walk along the route of the A344.

Click plans to enlarge

Quote from the planning document:

As a result of this layout people visiting the stones on foot along the A344 will cross Byway 12 and then cross the entrance to the bus turning circle east of Byway 12 to access the monument field (see Appendix A).  This is because there is not enough space on the southern VTS platform area to accommodate the loading of passengers on the bus and walkers coming from the west.  Visitors wishing to walk back to the Visitor Centre will walk along the southern platform and then cross Byway 12 onto the A344 designated pedestrian route.

Planning Condition these revised plans are designed to meet:

Planning Condition 4 states: 
‘Notwithstanding the submitted drawings showing the proposals for directing pedestrian arrivals in the vicinity of the A344 junction with Byway 12, prior to the commencement of the development hereby approved further details shall be submitted to and approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority demonstrating how pedestrians using the signed and lined route on the southern side of the A344 can access the Stones without having to cross the A344 or to walk within the route used by the Visitor Transit System to the east side of Byway 12. The approved details shall be implemented before the proposed bus turning arrangements are brought into effect.  

Note the requirement is that visitors should not have to walk within the route and yet the plans require them to do so  purely because the fence move makes the path too narrow. If the fence isn't moved then there is no problem and the planning condition could be met.

The only logical purpose of the fence move is therefore to prevent the permissive path being established. Wiltshire Council must not fail in their duty and approve these plans.

The suggestion the fenced off area is to allow the establishment of "swathes of meadow planting helps enhance the naturalistic feel of the space whilst helping integrate the facilities into the natural landscape." doesn't make sense as the area will be in a sheep field and English Heritage have shown us with the rest of the A344 it takes many years to establish such grass and it mustn't be trodden on during the establishment phase. A temporary barrier and leaving the stock fence where it is  would be more suited for grass establishment.

To comment by email click  Wiltshire Council


  1. One thing worth noting here is that if you have a footpath that is used by a lot of people a lot of the time, grass won't survive on the surface for long. Farmers know this, hence farm vehicle tracks are normally surfaced and repaired with ground limestone, which makes a reasonable and hard-wearing surface provided you don't try driving anything too heavy over it.

    English Heritage's plans sound as half-baked and idiotic as usual here; the easiest way to cope with visitors and coach traffic is to put 20 MPH limiters on the coaches, and simply let everyone walk on the tarmac surface of the old road.

    1. Trams and pedestrians get along fine in all the big city centres that have them! Sounds like a bit of planning/health and safety overkill.

      Otherwise there is nothing that some heavy duty grass matting can not achieve in terms of both managing grass surface wear and providing a reasonable wheelchair surface. I'd guess that some £3000, is all that it would have cost for say a 2-metre wide strip over the most sensitive stretch, and the surface would have been ready for use by now!

      More importantly;

      Barbed wire:

      164 Power to require removal of barbed wire.

      "(1)Where on land adjoining a highway there is a fence made with barbed wire, or having barbed wire in or on it, and the wire is a nuisance to the highway, a competent authority may by notice served on the occupier of the land require him to abate the nuisance within such time, not being less than one month nor more than 6 months from the date of service of the notice, as may be specified in it.

      For the purposes of this section—

      (a)the competent authorities, in relation to any highway, are the highway authority and also (where they are not the highway authority) the local authority for the area in which the highway is situated;

      (b)“barbed wire” means wire with spikes or jagged projections, and barbed wire is to be deemed to be a nuisance to a highway if it is likely to be injurious to persons or animals lawfully using the highway.

      (2)If at the expiration of the time specified in the notice the occupier has failed to comply with the notice, a magistrates’ court, if satisfied on complaint made by the authority that the wire is a nuisance to the highway, may order the occupier to abate the nuisance and, if he fails to comply with the order within a reasonable time, the authority may do whatever may be necessary in execution of the order and recover from him the expenses reasonably incurred by them in so doing.

      (3)If the local authority who are a competent authority in relation to the highway concerned are the occupiers of the land in question proceedings under this section may be taken against them by any ratepayer within the area of that local authority and the foregoing provisions apply accordingly in relation to him and to the authority as they apply in relation to an authority and to an occupier of land."

      There is a general duty of care on the part of the occupier(Engliah Heritage)and they clearly know full well what the situation is on their own land, never mind moving a barbed wire fence ONTO a public highway!