Visitors to Stonehenge are to be given the opportunity to visit the stones without paying the controversial £14.95 entry fee – but they will have to stand behind the fence further away from the stones than those who do.
English Heritage is to begin a new scheme in the spring which involves visitors telling staff at the new £27 million visitors centre that they do not want to pay. Instead they'll be asked to cough up £3 for a parking ticket for their car.
Then, the non-paying visitors will not be allowed access to the new high-tech exhibition centre, or the "land-train", which carries people the mile-and-a-half from the centre at Airman's Corner to the stones themselves.
Non-payers will have to walk – a three-mile round trip – and then will not be allowed to walk on the path that circles closely to the stones, and will have to remain in the field on the other side of the fence.
At the weekend, the Western Daily Press revealed that teething problems with the new visitors centre have led to outraged reviews from angry tourists since it opened in the week before Christmas.
Visitors complained that there were not enough land-trains to transport large numbers of visitors at peak times, and managers hired two coaches from local companies to try and ease queues. Outraged visitors took to website TripAdvisor to complain of the new centre's lack of capacity and the entry fee, which nearly doubled to £14.95.
Locals too are unhappy. Durrington resident Annie Nicolle wrote an open letter to English Heritage, which she said she wrote in "sadness and frustration at the unfolding debacle". "That English Heritage cannot immediately upgrade the transport 'system' to cope with the long queues, using the type of skills possessed by any half-competent Girl Guide, is staggering," she said. "That English Heritage demands 'patience' from the public, the very people from whom the £27 million for this pay booth with inadequate facilities has been secured, is pretty insulting," she added.
English Heritage said feedback for the new centre had been "overwhelmingly positive" but asked for "patience" while it sorted transport issues.