English Heritage has called for an end to the bureaucracy which seems to be holding up the breakthrough Stonehenge project which could see the site returned to its peaceful glory, away from the pollution of the A303.

The ambitious, multimillion pound project will see the A303 diverted through an underground tunnel, and a new visitors centre, designed to be in keeping with the stones, built to the edge of the Stonehenge site.

English Heritage, which is overseeing the project, had hoped that work would begin this year. However, they are concerned that work cannot now commence until at least late 2006.

The planning application for the visitors centre is currently being scrutinised by the Salisbury District Council, and a decision is due in the summer.

However, the planning for the road alterations, due last September, was not submitted to the Secretary of State for Transport, Alistair Darling, until the end of January.

Supporters of the project fear that the cost implications of the delay could threaten the project.

‘The road and visitors centre projects are dependent on each other. It wouldn’t make sense to start building the visitors centre if the planning application is successful, as the road alterations are still in doubt. The risk is too high. We would like a decision as soon as possible,’ said an English Heritage spokeswoman today.

The body’s concerns follow an open letter to Mr Darling from Fiona Reynolds, Director General the National Trust, which owns the site, urging the Minister to speed up the process: ‘It is to the Government’s credit that we have come further towards achieving the goals for Stonehenge than ever before. This makes it all the more important that Government sees things through and ensures that Stonehenge does not become obscured in bureaucratic long grass,’ she said.