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Designing Streets: Consultation Draft


2 Key Principles



  • Set out the qualities of successful places.
  • Set out the key policy principles of Designing Streets and the links with existing policies on design, land-use and transportation.
  • Clarifies the audience for Designing Streets.
  • Promotes greater collaboration between all those involved in the design, approval and adoption processes.
  • Explains the status of Designing Streets, its relationship with local design standards and the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges.

Figure 2.1 Streets should be attractive places that meet the needs of all users.

Figure 2.1 Streets should be attractive places that meet the needs of all users.


2.1.1 The last chapter set out the historical, legal and technical context relating to street design in Scotland, and the need to bring about a transformation in the quality of streets. This chapter sets out a policy framework with key principles that should be followed by all involved in street design and approval to achieve this transformation. This is intended to support a fundamental culture change in the way streets are designed and adopted, including a more collaborative approach between the design professions and other stakeholders. It encourages people to think creatively about their various roles in the process of delivering streets, breaking away from standardised, prescriptive, risk-averse methods to create high-quality places.

2.1.2 Streets make up the greater part of the public realm. Better-designed streets therefore contribute significantly to the quality of the built environment and play a key role in the creation of sustainable, inclusive, mixed communities consistent with the Government's strategic objectives and a number of National Outcomes. Better-designed streets have a role in the delivery of the policy objectives of Designing Places1 and Scottish Planning Policy ( SPP) 3: Planning for Housing. 2 They also support sustainable transportation and land-use policies as set out in SPP17 Planning for Transport. 3

2.1.3 Designing Streets is expected to be used predominantly for the design, construction, adoption and maintenance of new streets, but it is also applicable to existing streets. For new streets, Designing Streets advocates a return to more traditional patterns which are easier to assimilate into existing built-up areas and which have been proven to stand the test of time in many ways.

2.1.4 Streets should not be designed just to accommodate the movement of motor vehicles. It is important that designers place the highest priority on meeting the needs of pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users including vulnerable users, so that growth in these modes of travel is encouraged in line with sustainable transport policy.


2.1.5 The six key qualities of successful places, as advocated by the Scottish Government, are outlined in Designing Places4. These qualities should be applied to street design as follows:

Distinctive: Street designs should respond to local context to create places that are distinctive. We need to avoid designing new places that do not sit well with their surroundings.

Safe and Pleasant: Streets should be designed with the aim of creating safe and attractive places. Creative layouts should be used to minimise vehicle speeds naturally. Good design is best achieved through the comprehensive design of streets, buildings and public spaces.

Easy to get to and move around: Streets should be easy to move around by all modes of travel, providing convenient and direct links to places that people want to get to. New streets should connect well with existing streets, walking and cycling networks, and allow for links into future areas of development. Well connected street layouts will encourage walking and cycling which has important benefits for peoples' health.

Welcoming: Street layouts should encourage positive interaction between neighbours. The street should allow for people to meet and interact. This will create a strong sense of community, which will foster a sense of pride, belonging and welcome.

Adaptable: Experience shows that street networks are the most enduring features of our towns and cities. It is therefore important to plan networks that allow for future adaptation.

Resource Efficient: New streets should use materials and systems that are durable and cost effective to construct and maintain including the use of recycled and local materials where appropriate.

2.1.6 The guidance detailed in Designing Streets is entirely compatible with and supportive of achieving these six qualities. It has much to say about designing for ease of movement, but good streets also have a crucial role to play in the achievement of all of them. Indeed, poorly designed streets can make it impossible to achieve good design. Designing Places advises that:

'Much of what makes or mars cities, towns, villages and the countryside does not just consist of buildings, but it is the consequence of the continuous application of, for example, highway standards'.

2.1.7 Designing Streets explains how we can avoid these negative outcomes and achieve streets that we can all be proud of.

2.1.8 In summary, Designing Streets aims to assist in the creation of streets that:

  • help to build and strengthen the communities they serve;
  • meet the needs of all users, by embodying the principles of inclusive design (see box);
  • form part of a well-connected network;
  • are attractive and have their own distinctive identity;
  • are cost-effective to construct and maintain; and
  • are safe.

It is vital that the principles of inclusive design 5 are followed, as described below:

Inclusive design:

  • places people at the heart of the design process;
  • acknowledges diversity and difference;
  • offers choice where a single solution cannot accommodate all users;
  • provides for flexibility in use; and
  • provides buildings and environments that are convenient and enjoyable to use for everyone.


2.2.1 The government wish to see the 6 key qualities of successful places described above, taken forward in street design and approval. To assist this process, a number of key policy principles have been developed for Designing Streets following close consultation with key stakeholders. These principles, which lie at the heart of existing good practice examples in Scotland, are listed below along with the key qualities of successful places that they can impact upon.


Safe & Pleasant

Easy to get around and move around



Resource Efficient

Applying a user hierarchy to the design process with pedestrians first and motor vehicles last.





Promoting a collaborative approach to the delivery of streets



Promoting a more streamlined and consistent approval process across Scotland


Promoting the importance of the community function of streets as spaces for social interaction;





Promoting an inclusive environment that recognises the needs of people of all ages and abilities;




Promoting diversity and local context in street design


Promoting permeable and well connected networks of streets




Making streets distinctive, diverse and characterful




Use design to influence driver behaviour to deliver safe streets for all



Adopting a design led approach to parking




Promoting resource efficiency and sustainably including land use, systems and materials



These key principles are covered in more detail in subsequent chapters.


2.3.1 The principles set out above link strongly with the government's key objectives which include a Safer Scotland, a Smarter Scotland and a Greener Scotland.

More specifically, increasing connectivity and accessibility of neighbourhoods, which encourages activity on streets and sustainable modes such as walking and cycling will have a positive impact on people's health and well being and also help meet wider transport and environmental objectives. Increased numbers of people results in a feeling of improved safety and security - streets that are overlooked further enhance the feeling of security. Reductions in land-take for streets along with greater use of resource efficient materials and systems such as sustainable urban drainage ( SUDS) can also help address climate change and other environmental agendas.


Policy linkages diagram


2.4.1 Designing Streets is directed to all those with a part to play in the planning, design, approval or adoption of new streets, and modifications to existing streets. This includes the following:


  • developers;
  • disability and other user groups;
  • emergency services;
  • road and transportation authorities;
  • planning authorities;
  • public transport providers;
  • utility and drainage companies; and
  • waste collection authorities.

2.4.2 Within these organisations, the document is relevant to a very wide range of professional disciplines including architects, policy officers and urban designers as well as planners and roads and transportation engineers and many more.

2.4.3 As well as those mentioned above, there are other groups with a stake in the design of streets. Local communities, elected members and civic groups, in particular, are encouraged to make use of this document.

2.4.4 Designing Streets covers a broad range of issues and it is recommended that practitioners read every section regardless of their specific area of interest. This will create a better understanding of the many and, in some cases, conflicting priorities that can arise. A good design will represent a balance of views with any conflicts resolved through compromise and creativity.

2.4.5 The Scottish Government recognises that a range of training and other initiatives will be required to assist people taking forward this exciting new agenda both in the roles of design and approval, to support the policy and guidance within Designing Streets.


2.5.1 In the past, street design has sometimes been dominated by some stakeholders at the expense of others, often resulting in unimaginatively designed streets which tend to favour motorists over other users.

2.5.2 It is important for the various parts of local authorities to work together when giving input to a development proposal. Developers may be faced with conflicting requirements if different parts of local authorities fail to coordinate their input. This can cause delay and a loss of design quality. This is particularly problematic when one section of a local authority - for example the roads adoption /roads construction consent ( RCC) or maintenance engineers - become involved late on in the process and require significant changes to the design. A collaborative process of partnership and cooperation is required from the outset between all relevant parties.

2.5.3 Similarly it is vital the developer teams also work in an integrated manner to deliver quality street design and provide appropriate interfaces with Local Authorities and other stakeholders.

Insert image of joint working

2.5.4 Research carried out for the Scottish Government in 2005 identified how the Roads Construction Consent process should be better integrated with the planning approval process. This will provide greater certainty for developers taking forward more innovative designs and meet government objectives for streamlining the planning process. Further advice on this issue is given in Chapters 3 and G8.


2.6.1 The Scottish Government is the road authority for trunk roads in Scotland and acts through Transport for Scotland. The standard for trunk roads is the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges ( DMRB). 5

2.6.2 Some trunk roads could be described as 'streets' within the definition given in Designing Streets. Designing Streets does not generally apply to trunk roads, but in some locations, such as where a trunk road passes through the centre of a small town, and the 'place function' (see Chapter 2) is high, a more sensitive design that follows the principles of Designing Streets may well be appropriate.

2.6.3 The DMRB is not an appropriate design standard for most streets, particularly those in lightly-trafficked residential and mixed-use areas.

2.6.4 Although Designing Streets provides a policy and guidance on technical matters, local standards and design guidance are important tools for designing in accordance with the local context. Many local road authorities have developed their own standards and guidance. Some of these documents, particularly those published in recent years, have addressed issues of placemaking and urban design, but most have not. It is therefore essential that local authorities review their standards and guidance to embrace the principles of Designing Streets. Local standards and guidance should focus on creating and improving local distinctiveness through the appropriate choice of layouts and materials while adhering to the overall guidance given in Designing Streets.