Stonehenge coach park expansion approved

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Number of coach spaces will be nearly doubled as part of two-year temporary planning permission

Two-year temporary plans to double the size of the coach park at Stonehenge were given the go ahead on Thursday (April 9) with a possibility of it ending up becoming permanent.

The coach park currently has 30 coach bays but will soon have an extra 26 spaces and a 10m wide pedestrian walkway to accommodate groups of parties passing each other.

The further 26 spaces would be separate from the existing coach park – positioned approximately 60m to the east. Gravel infill will be used as a resurfacing material.

English Heritage submitted the application in order to “better manage” the existing numbers of visitors.

Stonehenge General Manager Kate Davies told the Southern Area Planning Committee that the extra provision would help improve the current situation which sees some coach drivers missing their timed arrival slots and ‘flyparking’ in neighbouring villages while waiting to pick up passengers.

She said: “For the 2014/2015 year our visitor numbers were 1.34m and we expect numbers will be between 1.3m and 1.4m over the next few years.

“60% of our paying visitors are now travelling to Stonehenge as part of a group and this has created a number of challenges.”

Those who welcome the added space include VisitWiltshire, which says the current coach parking facilities are inadequate, and coach travel company CIE Tours International, which says the current situation is “an accident waiting to happen” with its customers being put at “great risk” as they have to walk behind and in front of moving vehicles.

Councillors voted in favour of the coach park extension by seven to three, with one abstention.

Committee Chairman Cllr Fred Westmoreland said: “If we want to encourage more people to come by coach, which reduces the number of wheels on the road, then we have to make room for the coaches.

“I haven’t got much confidence in English Heritage getting everything right but on this they have got it absolutely right.

“If we were to turn this parking down, it would be crazy.”

Commenting on the expansion, CPT’s Coaching Manager, Andy Warrender said: “Increasing the number of available parking spaces will not only make for a more comfortable and enjoyable visit for those arriving by coach, but it will have a positive impact on road safety, vehicle emissions and congestion in the local area.

“World renowned attractions deserve top class facilities and these changes will undoubtedly improve the visitor experience for all.”

English Heritage hopes to have the extension in place by the summer holidays.