Panel calls for good design guide to make roads ‘beautiful’

Highways England should work to develop a Good Design Guide as a practical tool across its projects and wider operations and ensure that a design-led approach is at the heart of the review of the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges, an expert panel has said.

The Strategic Design Panel, whose members come from a range of disciplines, has published a report setting out a ‘design vision and a set of principles of good road design’, with 10 principles, including that design should be innovative but restrained and make roads safe, useful and understandable.

Phil Carey, policy advisor to Transport Focus and a member of the panel, said: ‘As the panel’s report makes clear, at the heart of good design must be a road that works well for users – one that puts safety first, is easy to use, and is as far as possible a pleasure to travel on.’

The panel recommended that Highways England should:

·         publish the design vision and principles recommended by the panel and work to develop a Good Design Guide.

·         ensure that its design vision and principles are implemented effectively and that the Good Design Guide becomes a practical tool across its projects and wider operations.

·         establish a specific objective aimed at ensuring that a design led approach, as set out in the design vision and principles, is at the heart of the review of the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges.

Highways England said the panel was set up to support the development of a culture where good design is at the heart of everything within itself and the wider road sector. Its said the panel’s focus is on strategic input rather than scheme specific details.

However, the panel has identified some key aspirations – in addition to its 10 principles – ‘that it considers would help to raise the standard of design’. These include ‘clear and consistent consideration of design at the earliest stage of scheme development’ and post-opening reviews to consider design principles.

Highways England said the panel members ‘represent stakeholders who have a passionate interest in the design of the Strategic Road Network’.

Other members include Colin Davis, representing the Chartered Institute of Highways & Transportation, and Selina Mason, representing the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Mike Wilson, Highways England’s chief highway engineer and the panel’s chair, described the project as the ‘embodiment of a new long- term strategic partnership between Highways England, road users, designers, architects, the construction industry, and environmental organisations who all share a desire for better, safer, beautiful roads’.

He said: ‘I share the aspiration that as well as our roads being safe, efficient and affordable, that they are also beautiful.

‘I do not underestimate the challenge of this; it requires a culture shift for Highways England and the wider roads sector. We will now review the recommendations and provide an update in due course.’

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