Darlington Town Centre.

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Tubwell Row Darlington, since 2001 improvments to Darlington Town Centre have sought to celebrate its architecture and create a pedestrian heart with an inlcusive shopping and civic area © Historic England

Improve Your Street

Whether you're a concerned individual or a residents' group, a local authority or responsible for designing and maintaining highways, the practical advice in this section will help you to take the necessary steps to improve the streets around you.

On this page:

Phoneboxes, street furniture, uncollected rubbish and fallen leaves on a pavement in London.
Adding clutter and poor maintenance can detract from areas that are otherwise well served with high quality public realm © Historic England

What do we stand to gain?

We have long campaigned for better recognition of the importance of streets and public spaces in the historic environment. Over the past 18 years we have been working with communities, local highways authorities and other public funding bodies to recognise and conserve the historic elements of our streets and to make these spaces even better. As well as achieving a lot, we’ve learned some valuable lessons along the way.

Projects to enhance streets have helped a great deal. They’ve reduced clutter, improved accessibility and the quality of materials and design. They’ve also brought uses back to our historic streets, such as markets and social spaces. The result is streetscapes that are both more attractive and useable and that celebrate their distinctive character.

Town centre of Yarm at dusk.
Improvements in Yarm included new and improved surfaces, lighting, cctv, as well as cleaning and care of the war memorial © Historic England

Sharing what we’ve learnt

While working on these projects, we’ve seen the benefits of partnership working, as well as the importance of quality workmanship and of future-proofing schemes for maintenance and repair.

However, there remain many historic streets that would benefit from co-ordinated action to avoid loss of character and to realise opportunities for sensitive enhancement.

This section provides lots of useful advice on what you can do to help make our streets more attractive, distinctive and user-friendly for everyone. This section also contains advice for highways engineers and designers.

Street in Cambridge showing 1950s street lamp outside Cambridge Wine Merchants
Street lighting in Cambridge has been upgraded with modern standards and lamps, whilst retaining the listed 1950s 'Festival' lamps © Historic England

Streets for All guidance

Our advice on the management, conservation and enhancement of historic streets is distilled in the national advice document Streets for All. This contains advice on planning changes to streets in historic locations with a focus on urban areas, which are most often the subject of enhancement schemes. It sets out principles for:

  • Conserving or improving ground surfaces, and street furniture
  • Choosing and installing new equipment and improving traffic management
  • Planning wider schemes of environmental improvement

The advice sets out five clear goals for the improvement of historic streets:

  • An inclusive environment
  • Economic benefit
  • A high quality environment
  • A healthy environment that supports our wellbeing and cohesion
  • Public safety and ease of movement

Read our Streets for All guidance

This document should be read alongside Manual for Streets and Manual for Streets 2 published by the Department for Transport, as well as their Regulations and Guidance Notes.

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