Streets are the foreground of our buildings and the backdrop to everyday lives. Yet England's streets are increasingly cluttered with traffic signs, bollards and guardrails. This results in streetscapes that are both unsightly and lack character.
English Heritage has developed regional documents and a street clutter audit to promote the restoration of the character of our streets.
Principles of Good Practice
Paving forms the foreground of almost every street scene. Quality in the design and construction of footways and streets surfaces is vital to the character of an area. It provides the context within which the buildings are seen.
- relate ground surfaces to the local context
- keep paving simple and avoid discordant colours
- maintain and restore historic paving and detail such as kerbs
The finest townscapes often have the minimum amount of street furniture. That which is essential is sited carefully to reinforce an underlying sense of visual order.
- retain historic street furniture which reinforces local character, but identify and remove superfluous or redundant items
- minimise signage, and locate signs on existing lamp-posts or buildings, or at the back edge of the pavement
- use a single dark colour for all items
- reduce guard-rails to a minimum and use designs that relate to the townscape, such as traditional posts and railings
- avoid standardised lighting and choose the design and light source most appropriate for the area
- wherever possible, eliminate the need for bollards through good design; where unavoidable use designs and materials appropriate to function and context
Traffic calming measures should fit sensitively into the street scene as though they were part of the original design of the area.
- adopt a minimalist approach. Physical measure should involve minimal visual interference with the established street scene
- use traditional material such as asphalt and granite setts. Coloured surfaces are usually unnecessary and undesirable and should be avoided
- confine road markings to those essential for highway safety
Environmental improvements should enhance local distinctiveness and reinforce those qualities which make an area special. The most modest schemes are usually the most successful in reinforcing a sense of place and making streets for people. To achieve quality:
- use a townscape analysis to identify the visual, spatial and historical qualities that make the area special
- observe local detail in surfaces and street furniture
- limit formal design to formal spaces; informal or vernacular spaces should follow their functional tradition
- provide for regular management and maintenance
No single authority or agency has control over or responsibility for the presentation and management of the street. The impact of roads and traffic on the historic environment can only be minimised if highways and planning authorities are co-ordinated. A managerial approach involving engineers and urban designers is necessary.
- include clear policies for paving, street furniture and the public realm in development plans and conservation area statements. Local policy and guidance should be based on a detailed understanding of how streets have developed in the past
- street audits, carried out jointly by highways and urban design/ conservation staff, will identify surviving historical materials and details
- investing in quality will provide enduring value for money. If resources are limited, doing less to a high standard is better than compromising. However, all investment must be protected with adequate provision for maintenance
- improve levels of urban design awareness amongst highways staff to ensure routine practice decisions are well informed by principles of best practice