Design Council has been represented on the Highways England Strategic Design Panel since 2015, and we have been working with representatives of other organisations invited by Highways England (HE) to help it establish a strategy for improving design in its work developing England's Strategic Road Network. In developing recommendations to Highways England, the panel has looked at individual schemes in the current road investment programme, and at areas of process and specification. 

At the request of the HE Design Panel, Design Council commissioned Lynne Ceeney, one of our Built Environment Experts to assess and report on how the independent review of road designs at the right stages in their development could be integrated with Highways England's project and programme management systems. Lynne has considerable experience of working with Highways England's Project Control Framework, and advising on road design and development and sustainability. This report was well received by both the Design Panel and Highways England officers. The report highlighted the need for the Strategic Design Panel to be supported by a having a Design Review Panel looking independently at the design of road projects and common aspects of road design.

Victor Callister, Design Council’s Deputy Director of Architecture and Built Environment and representative on the Strategic Design Panel has also worked closely with other Panel members on the development of a recommended Design Vision and 10 Principles of Good Road Design, that the panel has recommended are adopted by Highways England as the starting point for designing road infrastructure of any type, from whole new Motorways to Motorway Gantries to Motorway Services.

The Principles for Good Road Design are drafted to reflect the panel's particular concern's on developing an ‘opportunity’ focused approach to design within design teams and a move away from the ‘constraint and mitigation’ based approach that provides the current framework for infrastructure design, which often results in late stage retrofitting of mitigating measures to lessen the impact of infrastructure.

The Principles also reflect the panel's desire to see designs that seek to maximise the opportunities for the landscapes and places that road affect, but also develops an approach to road design that recognises the diversity of the communities and people that live with and use road infrastructure and seeks to establish a fully inclusive approach to the design of new and upgraded roads.

It is clear that Highways England are embracing this approach to design, and also recognise the role that road infrastructure has to play in more local economic and environmental development, particularly where the local authority and community have adopted plans that could be impacted or supported directly by the design choices made for roads. This is a smarter approach to road design that is intended to help demonstrate greater value and benefit from the same level of planned investment. 

Design Council Chief Executive Sarah Weir has said “Highways England are to be congratulated on the approach they have taken in establishing its Design Panel and having it focus on the strategic aspects of design, and we are delighted to have contributed to its work and proud to be a part of it. The Design Panel’s report sets a design challenge for Highways England that puts design processes and thinking at the heart of the planning and development of the strategic road network. Design Council fully endorses the Design Vision and comprehensive '10 Principles of Good Design’ and welcomes the focus on valuing both the beauty of the places through which roads pass and the experience of people that live with and use road infrastructure.

Design Council supports Highways England’s use of these principles through its planned Good Design Guide for the review of its overarching Design Manual, and encourages Highways England to use these as the means by which designs for future road infrastructure are measured, so that the full benefits of good design can be released through their work.”

Through our work on the Highways England Strategic Design Panel, we look forward to working with HE on embedding this approach in the review of the Manual for the Design of Roads and Bridges, and in supporting HE in developing a refocused approach to design for this and the next Road Investment Strategy for England. 

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