Priorities to improve the state of our streets
Living Streets has produced a report, The State of our Streets, which brings together examples of initiatives and projects led by councils across the country which have delivered better quality streets and value for money. Our key recommendations are as follows:
1. Create places for people...
National and local government policy must recognise that streets are an integral part of community life, places where we live, work and shop. We are all pedestrians. Decisions that affect the day to day management and maintenance of our streets can have a profound effect on the walking environment – and our quality of life.
Councils should prioritise low cost, simple improvements that make streets safe, attractive and more accessible places to be for young people, older people and people with disabilities. They should ensure that opportunities for more substantial changes employ quality materials and are designed with all street users, particularly the most vulnerable, in mind.
Councils should make full use of their existing powers, for example, by issuing fixed penalty notices, to act against people who damage or deface streets.
Use community street audits wherever possible as part of the process of designing or commissioning streetscape services, in order to involve communities, particularly more vulnerable street users, in helping to spot potential problems on streets and gather local views on the improvements people would like to see.
2. ...by working better together...
Councils should coordinate street care services in order to improve the state of our streets and save money. Designate a political champion and a senior officer to deliver joint working on street issues and enable frontline, area-based staff who are best placed to report problems to do so.
Wherever possible, councils should coordinate scheduled street maintenance and street improvements with street works planned by external contractors or utilities. They should use the powers available to them to put in place permit schemes for works in their area, in order to ensure high quality reinstatements and minimal disruption to pedestrians and other road users.
Councils and local business should look for opportunities to work together, for example, through the designation of Business Improvement Districts, in order to improve the public realm, and economic health of town centres and local high streets.
Councils should seek to involve local residents and other stakeholders in making decisions, including on how budgets are allocated, which affect the state of their streets. In times of austerity, understanding local priorities and the limitations to delivery imposed by cuts can be mutually beneficial - and opens the way to collaborative solutions.
3. ...to protect the streetscape
Councils should publicise how to report problems and make it as easy as possible, by phone, online or with smart phone applications. They should also provide feedback on what will be done, why and when.
Councils should set clear, measurable standards for footway inspection. They should be regular and, ideally, linked to highway inspections. The needs of all ‘street users’ should be addressed in an integrated fashion, in recognition of the fact that streets have a dual movement and place function. Surveys should also be carried out on foot, in order to ensure the collection of reliable data.
Aim to participate as fully as possible in local authority-led benchmarking and measurement processes, in particular the National Highways and Transport Network’s Public Satisfaction Survey and Local Government Association’s LG Inform, which collect and share data to inform service improvement.
Councils must invest for the future. Preventing problems through long term maintenance programmes is better, and cheaper, than temporary quick-fix cures. Scheduling works in advance can also add value when wider improvements are implemented at the same time. As budget cuts continue, sharing knowledge and experience of novel solutions is more important than ever.