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Stonehenge hit by traffic hold-up

Denton Corker Marshall's (DCM) £35 million Stonehenge Visitors Centre faces indefinite delays because the government has failed to approve the project's ambitious traffic plans.

Stephen Quinlan, DCM managing director, has warned costly delays to the road scheme could create 'difficulties' for the centre, 'specifically in terms of budget'.

'We're hopeful of getting planning approval for the visitors centre in the summer but we could be sitting on our hands because the road scheme is not approved, ' said Quinlan.

Construction of the 5,000m 2 'gateway to Stonehenge', featuring a single-storey series of steel blades stabbed into the ground (pictured), hinges on the scheme's approval. DCM has proposed a tunnel to take traffic away from the monument and grassing over two roads.

Transport secretary Alistair Darling was expected to pass judgement on the scheme in September last year, following a nine-month public inquiry. But English Heritage (EH), which is spearheading the project, says it is unclear when a decision will be made.

'We're hoping to hear by early summer or, if possible, before, but certainly no later. There are serious inflationary cost implications if the project is delayed. But we are also concerned the project will lose momentum if we cannot begin work, ' said an EH spokeswoman.

The National Trust, which owns about a third of the Stonehenge World Heritage site, believes the project is becoming 'obscured in bureaucratic long grass'.

'At this critical juncture there are worrying signs that the government is not giving the project the priority its national and international status merits, ' said National Trust director general, Fiona Reynolds.

A transport department spokesman rejected suggestions the government was procrastinating on the project. 'Our commitment is still there, it hasn't been downgraded. We are awaiting the planning inspector's report and it will take time to look through this, ' he said.

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