Highways England’s Strategic Design Panel delivers first progress report

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Highways England’s (HE) Strategic Design Panel, which was set up to put good design at the heart of the country’s road improvement projects, has published its first vision and progress report.

The panel was set up in June 2015 to support the development of a culture where good design is at the heart of everything within HE and the wider road sector, which coincided with the agency delivering the biggest program of government investment in a generation.

The panel’s focus is on strategic input rather than scheme specific details, targeting where its expertise, insight and guidance will have most positive impact and wider benefit, such as standards, procurement and evaluation.

The panel has made the following key recommendations:

• HE should publish the design vision and principles recommended by the panel and should work to develop a Good Design Guide;

• HE should 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;

• HE should 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 UK government’s Design Manual for Roads and Bridges (DMRB), which is used across the world.

The panel members come from a range of disciplines and represent stakeholders that have an interest in the design of the country’s Strategic Road Network (SRN), including: Campaign for Better Transport, Design Council/Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE), Transport Focus, Chartered Institute of Highways and Transportation (CIHT), Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), Landscape Institute, Historic England, The Prince’s Foundation, Institution of Structural Engineers, Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), Natural England, and the National Trust.

“As we continue to successfully deliver the first Road Investment Strategy, I share the aspiration that as well as our roads being safe, efficient and affordable, that they are also beautiful,” commented HE’s chief highway engineer, Mike Wilson. “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.”

Phil Carey, policy advisor to the Transport Focus watchdog, noted, “As the 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.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since he joined the company in May 2014. Prior to this he worked on some of the UK's leading consumer magazine titles including Men's Health and Glamour, beginning his career in journalism in 1997 after graduating with a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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