Street Design in the UK - Pilot Survey

Urban Design Group
Publication date: 
September 2018

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This survey has obtained a picture of street design and adoption practice in Great Britain. While there are some councils that have been reported to have lead, required or encouraged outstanding examples of street design, there is an underlying concern at a system level including:

  • Failures to adopt industry best practice in street design and the persistent use of outdated and questionable highway design standards dating from the 1960s or earlier.

  • Failures to discharge statutory duties – such as the Public Sector Equality Duty, including attaching greater priority to accommodating large refuse collection vehicles than the needs of blind, partially sighted and elderly people.

  • Failures to reflect adequately the common law duty of care owed to highway users.

  • Failures to reflect current government policies and guidance – such as currentplanning policies and guidance.

  • Management failures within local authorities including:

o The practices of individual highway authorities not reflecting the local authority’soverall strategic objectives in its corporate plan, or in its own planning policies.

o Conflict between individual departments within individual local authorities or between county and district tiers.

o Failures to ensure that staff and consultants are up-to-date and competent to do the work being required of them, or to realise that professional staff who undertake work outside their area of competence are in breach of their professional codes of conduct and potentially working without professional indemnity insurance cover.

There are wider concerns that current funding constraints imposed on local authorities are incentivising the creation of poor quality development. The elimination of trees and landscaping, the use of poor quality materials, and the absence of community space such as parks, leads to a harsh environment that can have long term impacts on health and wellbeing, and impose costs on the NHS and social services.

Streets perform many different functions, not merely providing freedom of movement, but acting as areas for play, recreation and social contact as well as providing corridors for essential infrastructure including drainage, sewerage, water supply energy, communications, and waste management.

There is a concern that the underlying legislation, guidance and regulatory system that cover these areas, has become so complex and unwieldy, so disjointed and uncoordinated that it is unreasonable for designers, engineers and highway authorities to perform effectively.