Evolution of Residential Highway Design in South-East England - The Future

So what about the future? Iíve picked three areas where weíll face challenges

The Future

National Planning Policy Framework

The National Planning Policy Framework, which (at the time of this presentation) was still draft, aims to simplify the planning process

However, many people believe it is simply a green light to widespread house building because it contains phrases like "the presumption in favour of sustainable development"

Sustainable Development

Neighbourhood Plan

A significant change is that it will require planners to consider local and neighbourhood plans when making planning decisions

Local and neighbourhood plans come under the Localism Bill and enable a local community to define how they want any new housing in their area to look, where to build it, and also define other local aspects such as ecology and wildlife, historical sites, views and vistas, green spaces like nature reserves, and the provision of amenities

So it is highly likely this will have an impact on housing estate road layouts and their design and appearance

Another challenge is to gain public acceptability

Since Victorian times new housing developments have been unpopular, with criticism aimed at both the houses and the roads

The phrase "Building the slums of tomorrow today" was a popular UK newspaper headline 5 or 6 years ago. It suggested the modern small and densely packed housing along with the narrow roads being built at the time echoed the cramped slum housing of the Victorian era

A modern twist was that these roads and footways were often blocked by parked cars because planning policies such as PPG3 meant the new estates didnít provide enough off-street parking spaces, in the unrealistic hope that people would use public transport instead

So we face the challenge of designing and building better housing estates and roads that will be more acceptable to future generations. One way to do this is through using more innovation

Public Acceptability


Better below ground storage crate systems to attenuate storm flows, and tree root barrier systems to enable street trees and buried services to share the same footway space mean better designed sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) and green corridors

A number of everyday highway items, like kerb units and manhole covers, are now available using recycled plastic and other recycled materials. More concrete and blacktop road construction now also includes a variety of recycled materials

Other new technologies can improve the street scene and user safety

For example LED street lighting, already used in many UK locations, provides directional and low energy lighting

Speed activated traffic lights, common in Continental Europe, and average speed safety cameras (even at low 20 mph speeds) target more efficiently those individuals who speed

Advances in computer software mean we can now create virtual 3D models of our housing estates. At public consultation events these can provide a realistic virtual 3D representation of how a development might look, and maybe quell some local objections or concerns at an early stage

We can also rethink highway geometry practices. For example, why not consider and design footpaths and cycle tracks first, and then fit the carriageways afterwards?

Unfortunately there are many barriers to innovation which will take time to overcome:

Some developers prefer to minimise costs by using tried and tested technologies and construction methods, and many highway authorities only allow materials with low whole life costs (purchase, construction and maintenance costs). However, this often leads to bland or uninspiring street scenes

The risk of high maintenance costs can also lead utility companies to refuse to adopt utility networks (e.g. drains and sewers) in schemes with many street trees because of the risk of tree root damage to buried pipework

Many highway authorities also prefer layouts that maximise safety based on historic research, partly from a fear of litigation by members of the public

There is also a cultural barrier where designers, engineers, safety auditors and highway authorities follow guidelines too rigidly and fear making a "leap of faith" when using innovative solutions not yet based on certified research. This leads to the spread of identikit housing estate roads completely lacking any local character

However, attitudes are now beginning to change, and innovation has the opportunity to create new, interesting street scenes which engage with the public and will hopefully change their attitudes towards housing estates

Barriers to Innovation

So to Conclude...

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