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Advice for Highway Engineers and Designers

This page sets out the advice Historic England has produced for highways engineers and designers and others who have an interest in maintaining or improving streets.

Cluttered streets in Bath
Cluttered streets in Bath © Historic England

Places and infrastructure – why our streets and public spaces matter

Everyone looks at the ground! The historic environment is not all buildings and monuments; the spaces in between have a visual impact.

Highways and footpaths are often older than surrounding buildings; their line, construction materials and furniture can all be important.

They contribute to our appreciation and enjoyment of a place. Good quality and appropriate design will have a lasting, positive impact on the local area and the people who use it daily.

  • Street surfacing is an integral part of the appearance of an area and the way in which it is used. It is important to reinstate groundworks sympathetically.
  • Signs and barriers are sometimes required for safety. But they can be kept to a minimum and positioned thoughtfully to avoid clutter and obstruction. Studies have shown that many items of street furniture are unnecessary.
  • Bollards and bus shelters, even drains and paving may be of historic significance. Further information on rarity and importance may be required before removing or altering features and structures.
  • Digging trenches may remove or expose buried archaeology. Where possible, find out what you might encounter before works start.

Measures such as changing road layouts, traffic calming, pedestrianisation, access and mobility in relation to public realm can all have an impact on the surrounding historic environment.

Simple design principles such as reducing clutter, co-ordinating street furniture where appropriate and reinforcing local character will help to make sure that the street scape complements rather than detracts from the surrounding buildings.

Good design will also ensure that the street is accessible to all while maintaining local character.

Streets for All

Historic England has Streets for All streetscape manuals for each English region. Produced in conjunction with the Department for Transport, these give practical advice on the design, management and conservation of streets, particularly in historic areas. We are currently revising these documents and new versions should be online by January 2018.

Drafts of the consultation documents are available on our closed consultations webpage.

Other guidance and advice

The Department for Transport and Department of Communities and Local Government have produced guidance for those involved in the design, planning and approval of new streets and modification of existing ones. See Manual for Streets.

This manual came out after we issued the Streets for All Manuals, and endorses many of the ideas we put forward.

This was followed by Manual for Streets 2 which gives further advice and case studies on how the philosophies in Manual for Streets can be used beyond new residential streets to encompass both urban and rural situations.

Department for Transport Traffic Advisory Leaflets (TAL) also cover issues relating to the historic environment such as Historic Core Zones, which allow you to reduce signage and street lines within the zones.

See the following four case studies on Historic Core Zones:

  • TAL 10/97 Halifax Historic Core Zone
  • TAL 2/98 Lincoln Historic Core Zone
  • TAL 8/98 The High Street Route Shrewsbury and
  • TAL 13/99 Bury St Edmunds Historic Core Zone

PRIAN (Public Realm Information and Advice Network) is an independent body that has useful advice on street design.


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