Major construction has been given the go-ahead at the Stonehenge visitor centre, as Wiltshire Council has approved a planning application for new education facilities.

English Heritage submitted the application to the council in November 2023, which requested permission to construct two new buildings approximately 2.5 miles to the west of the Stonehenge Circle.

According to the proposal, the plans are part of a “wider investment strategy for supporting improvements to the visitor experience at Stonehenge.”

The first building is due to be a new learning centre east of the Ancillary Building, adjacent to the shuttle bus turnaround north of the visitor centre.

Plans for the second building describe a ‘Neolithic structure’ for a ‘Neolithic classroom’ east of the visitor centre, near the existing ‘Neolithic village’.

The learning centre will have a total floor area of 397m2 and will include a STEM lab, as well as a learning studio connected to outdoor spaces.

The plans explained that the continuous archaeological research at Stonehenge increasingly relies on scientific insight to fully understand and explore the discoveries made.

Meanwhile, the “Neolithic classroom” will be based on evidence for Neolithic communal buildings found at Durrington Walls in the north east of the World Heritage Site.

The area will be designed to provide an “immersive and authentic” space where a combination of “costumed storytelling, object handling and hands-on activities” will allow students to experience “a deepened and enhanced appreciation of Neolithic life.”

The application said: “Given its international status and cultural significance, English Heritage believes that Stonehenge should have a sector-leading education offer as befits this unique and special place – one that ensures that all education groups, both free and paying visits, have a world-class experience.”

English Heritage also included a section detailing that one of the main priorities of the construction will be providing a net zero carbon building operation.

Wiltshire Council’s case officer report noted that although the new facilities will result in an increase of vehicular traffic to the centre, this traffic is likely to be by bus, which is in line with the council’s core policy of decreasing travel by private car.

It stated: “It is concluded that the public benefits of the proposal would outweigh the limited harm to heritage assets in the planning balance and refusal on heritage and landscape grounds would not be justified.”

Wiltshire Council therefore approved the proposals.