Highways are a positive street scene contributor

Ground-breaking traffic calming schemes were one subject covered in a recent seminar attended by Martin McNally.

The RTPI urban design network, together with the transport planning network, organised a seminar entitled Highways: A Positive Contributor to the Street Scene and Rural Landscape.

Demonstrating the importance of collaborating across professional networks, they joined forces with the Institute of Incorporated Highway Engineers (IHIE) and the Dorset area of outstanding national beauty (AONB) partnership to deliver the seminar in Poundbury. The event looked at the latest thinking and good practice on how highway-user behaviour can be influenced as much by the built environment and natural form around a highway as by the engineered navigation aids placed on it.

Chaired by IHIE president Gerry Harvey, a programme of punchy, succinct and upbeat presentations covered a range of topics including one on ground-breaking traffic calming schemes from the Netherlands and Germany by Ben Hamilton-Baillie of Hamilton-Baillie Associates.

Dorset AONB team leader Sarah Bentley and Halcrow transport planner James Purkiss outlined the progress and achievements of the highway aspects of the AONB management plan. These include the publication of Reclaiming our Rural Highways, a report on the character of Dorset's rural roads and management experience and best practice from other areas that could be used to benefit both the landscape and other non-motorised road users.

The document includes case studies of novel highway management techniques.

Dorset County Council principal transport planner Stephen Hardy talked about natural calming in the town and country. He said that by translating design skills exercised in high-quality urban development we can redress the increasing urbanisation of our rural roads and the erosion of the character of the landscapes in which they are set, thus contributing to the enhancement of our finest countryside.

Hardy also discussed the updated directions contained in the latest Manual for Streets and its implications for good design. Gloucestershire accident investigation engineer Alexandra Luck highlighted experiences in Bibury, where traditional traffic safety measures and navigational aids have been replaced by natural calming.

Guided tours of Poundbury led by the Dorset transport planning and development liaison team demonstrated how streetscapes make a major contribution to natural traffic calming.

The event was attended by more than 80 delegates consisting of transport planners, highway engineers, urban designers and protected landscape teams, as well as members of the press. The event also featured on local BBC television news.

One of the most exciting outcomes of the event was the buzz factor created among delegates who were able to hear from those with direct experience about the best practice of schemes that clearly demonstrate the way in which the use of the highway is influenced by calming and engineering and the major role that it has in contributing positively to the urban and rural landscape.

Since the feedback from the event was overwhelmingly positive, it has been agreed in principle that a repeat event should be held next spring.

- The Dorset report is available on CD via (tel) 01305 756782 or (e-mail) www.dorsetaonb.org.uk.

- For more information on the RTPI networks can be viewed via www.rtpi.org.uk/resources/networks.

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