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What You Can Do To Improve Our Streets

Our streets are fundamental parts of our historic villages, towns and cities. They are the spaces where we meet, shop, travel and appreciate our communities’ rich heritage.

At the same time, they are often the least cared for part of our historic places, becoming cluttered over the decades. Blighted with accumulated signs, mediocre paving, obstructed footways, or dominated by traffic infrastructure and motor vehicles. This can make them unattractive for the uses that build cohesive communities. Their degraded condition blights local economic success and prevents us all from enjoying the historic places that mean so much to us.

A mix of traditional road and pavement surface materials in Bristol, including iron kerb edging that reflects historic industrial use
A mix of traditional surface materials in Bristol, including iron kerb edging that reflects historic industrial use © Historic England

Taking action

Worried about the condition of a historic street near you but don't know what to do about it? 

  • Why not carry out a street audit and use it to identify what is special about your streets and the issues that need to be addressed?
  • Consider who else is affected by these issues or who has an interest in how they might be resolved. Build a group to develop proposals for conservation and improvement.
  • Work with your local council to deliver a project of conservation or enhancement of your public spaces
  • Use our regional case study documents to show your council what can be achieved to enhance public space and the social, economic and environmental benefits this can help to deliver.

In the foreground blue brick paving and red setts lead into a passageway. Visible through the passage is a wall with a bold piece of art work on it showing a man's face partly concealed by the brim of his cap.
St Paul's Square, Birmingham. Locally distinctive materials, including blue brick pavers, and red setts, combine with a distinctive tunnel and public art to create a memorable space in the public realm © Historic England

What success looks like

We campaign for the restoration of England's historic streets. We want them to be places where people want to be, where all street users are accommodated and where communities thrive as a result.

Great steps have been made. There are lots of examples where sensitive work has brought vitality back to town centres, making them unique and attractive destinations.

Find an example near you

Bow Lane, Durham. The carriageway paved with river worn cobbles carefully laid to provide a smoth surface
Bow Lane, Durham. The road surface paved with river worn cobbles carefully laid to provide a smoth surface © Durham County Council

Through localism, neighbourhood planning and use of the Community Infrastructure Levy, communities are gaining control over funding used to manage their environment, including the streets and green spaces that form the ‘public realm’. Communities are also getting involved by identifying issues that affect the special quality of historic places by preparing appraisals and audits of their conservation areas.

Poor condition of road and footpath surfaces, cluttered signs and poorly maintained green space are all identified as common issues that threaten the character or appearance of Conservation Areas. Local planning authorities have a duty to bring forward proposals to preserve or enhance the character of appearance of these areas. Communities can help by identifying where these problems occur and what action could be taken.

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