English Heritage has unveiled its £25 million designs for a new visitor centre at Stonehenge.

The proposals for the centre at Airman's Corner, 1.5 miles west of the prehistoric stones near Amesbury in Wiltshire, have been submitted to Wiltshire Council with plans to close the nearby A344.

The centre, designed by architectural firm Denton Corker Marshall, is "sensitive to its surroundings and to the significance of the monument", English Heritage said.

English Heritage's Stonehenge project director Loraine Knowles said: "The new centre is designed to blend into the World Heritage landscape which visitors will pass through on their way to the stones.

"It will provide enhanced opportunities for education and interpretation, and have first-class facilities in keeping with Stonehenge's status as a world-renowned tourist attraction."

A recent public consultation revealed that 78% agreed the new centre - which will not be visible from the monument - would enhance visitors'

experiences, while 69% thought the proposals would improve the setting of the stones.

Exhibitions, a cafe, shop and toilets will be housed in a pair of single-storey areas - one glass, the other timber-enclosed - sitting beneath an undulating roof.

The centre will be linked to the stones by a transit system - similar to the four-trailer mechanism seen at the Eden Project in Cornwall - and fully accessible to disabled visitors.

The project is still subject to planning permission and funding, which will be provided through a range of private and public sources, including English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Wiltshire Council will undertake further public consultation as part of the formal planning process. If planning permission is granted, construction work is expected to take place in 2011, with the new visitor facilities scheduled to open in 2012, in time for the London Olympics.

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