THE head of China's body charged with conserving historical relics has rejected a plan to fell trees and demolish ancient buildings to improve tourist access to Dunhuang's famous Mogao Grottos. Jin Hongkui, Vice-Director of Relics at the State Bureau of Cultural Relics, said a plan proposed by the Landscape Institute under the Construction Ministry was unacceptable. Proposals included cutting down trees in front of the Mogao caves to allow visitors to take pictures, and demolishing Ching dynasty temples, pagodas and a gateway. But other developments in the city are proceeding. A once important city along the Silk Road, Dunhuang was designated a historical cultural city last year. Plans to make changes to the Mogao Grottos, China's oldest Buddhist shrines dating as far back as 366 AD, triggered fierce protests from Chinese and international conservation groups early this year. The Getty Institute in the US and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, which have funded conservation work in Dunhuang, conveyed concern at any possible alterations to the caves. Chang Shana, director of the Central Academy of Arts and Crafts, reportedly had called for a halt to the plan, saying that it would turn the caves into cheap amusement grounds. The trees, she maintained, were planted about 100 years ago to protect the caves from wind and sand erosion. Removing them would be ''devastating''. Mr Jin said that aside from necessary facilities for fire prevention, no construction whatsoever was allowed within the protection zone around the caves. And any development in nearby construction control zones needed to be approved by the bureau, he said. ''The development of an international tourist centre is one thing while that of the protection of cultural relics is another.'' Mr Jin said some construction works around the caves would strike a balance between demands of researchers and tourists. A Research Centre for Protection of the Dunhuang Grottos, funded by the Japanese Government, for instance, had recently been completed. But Mr Jin maintained that the plan by the Landscape Institute was definitely out of the question, and that no new construction would be undertaken in the next few years. The official Xinhua (New China News Agency) reported last week that 60 per cent of 116 projects to turn Dunhuang into an international tourist centre had been already completed. Major tourist and cultural facilities have been built, while computer-controlled telephone systems, highways, high-grade hotels, finance and amusement facilities are in the pipeline, the report said.