English Heritage drops Stonehenge shortlist

Design consultancies will have a second opportunity to design a new £65m visitor centre at Stonehenge after the four shortlisted consortia were ditched by English Heritage, having failed to meet the necessary criteria. The final bidders were Visitor Care, Salisbury Presentation, Lodestone Consortium and MEPC and Sidell Gibson.

Following a lengthy process dating back to 1997, English Heritage, which is responsible for the development programme for the ancient site, has opted to acquire the land for the proposed venue now, before the December deadline expires. As a result, the process is expected to be delayed for as long as an additional three years.

English Heritage chairman Sir Neil Cossons describes the existing Stonehenge visitor facilities as “disgraceful”, adding that the target opening date was originally 2003.

“It has become clear that it would be counter-productive to rush to meet this schedule, since the opening date will not now be before 2006,” he explains.

“None of the bidding consortia has produced a scheme which satisfies all of English Heritage’s criteria for a world class heritage visitor centre. We are therefore closing down the current visitor centre procurement process,” says Cossons.

“Securing the site immediately, in advance of developing a planning application, will enable us to work to a new timetable for delivering the visitor centre, to tie in closely with the programme for the A303 road scheme. It will also meet local concerns that improvements to Countess Roundabout should be in place before the visitor centre is opened,” he says.

A spokeswoman for English Heritage adds: “We are exploring a number of options for funding and designing for the new visitor centre and hope some of the shortlisted organisations involved recently will continue their interest. There will also be more hands-on input from English Heritage in the future.”

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