Reduce street clutter

Successful streets use signs, bollards and guardrails sparingly. Excessive street furniture can have a negative impact on a street’s character and lead to confusion among users.

CABE advises local people, councillors and their officers on how to reduce street clutter in their area.

Advice for local people

1. Find out who’s in charge

Key council contacts have influence in this area. Get in touch with them to share your views:

  • Your ward councillor represents local people and can involve you in decision making. Ward councillors can press the council to improve the quality of streets.
  • Committee members and chairs make decisions on proposals based on local knowledge and their understanding of council strategy and policy. The most relevant committees for this agenda are planning and highways.
  • The director of highways is responsible for the delivery of major projects, and the maintenance of the existing network of streets. Within Highways there are likely to be people responsible for different elements of the street, such as lighting and signage. Get in touch with the director and ask to be referred to the relevant officer. 
  • The director of planning oversees planning, development and regeneration across the authority. Within the Planning department, the urban design or conservation officer is usually most closely involved with the design of streets and public spaces.

2. Find out what the council has committed to do

  • Has your local authority developed a clear policy on the design of local streets? If so are they delivering on their commitments?
  • Is there a local initiative to address the issue of street clutter? If so, how successful is it and can you support it? If not can you initiate one?

For example in Nottingham, while planning major works to Maid Marian Way, the city council identified the need for design guidance. This has helped coordinate council and private sector improvements to streets and squares. A ‘clutter buster’ has removed thousands of redundant signs around the city centre and removed the need to continually raise orders for sign removals. It has resulted in a more responsive service that works pro-actively. 

3. Find out what support is on offer

  • CABE has worked with almost every council in the country, helping them to seize the creative and economic opportunities of a project or a long-term way of working. In particular we have supported local authorities with both community engagement and partnership working.
  • CABE developed Spaceshaper, a practical toolkit that allows people to evaluate the quality of spaces before deciding on the best way to improve them. Spaceshaper was used to kick start the improvements of Redcross Way in Southwark.  Register your interest for free half-day taster sessions.
  • English Heritage’s Save our streets campaign includes more advice about how you can take action locally to reduce clutter.
  • Civic Voice, the national charity for the civic movement in England, is running Street Pride, a campaign supporting local action to help rid streets of unnecessary clutter. They have developed a supporting campaign toolkit with information on how community groups can run a street survey.
  • Living Streets, the national charity that represents pedestrians, is running Naked Streets, a campaign for local people to take action on cluttered streets. They also run community street audits which evaluate the quality of streets from the user's, rather than the manager's, perspective.

Advice for councillors

  1. CABE’s councillor’s guide gives practical advice about the steps you can take to ensure streets work for local users.
  2. Get training to understand the issues better – for instance by attending one of the street design and placemaking half day sessions being delivered in your region by the local architecture centre.
  3. English Heritage’s HELM (historic environment local management) website provides advice for councillors concerned with the quality of the historic environment.

Advice for local authority officers

  1. Use CABE’s research to make the case. Understand the five principles of successful street design and put them into practice in your day to day work. Read our case studies to learn from your peers around the country.
  2. Use our technical support and advice. This covers architecture, landscape design, urban design and planning; environmental sustainability; community engagement; quantity surveying and project management. It also covers experience of being a client.
  3. Access CABE’s street design and placemaking training being delivered with local architecture centres.
  4. Find out about Manual for Streets 2 – Wider Application of the Principles developed by the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation with the support of the Department for Transport, CABE and others. The guidelines help practitioners to understand how to design streets that balance the needs of all users.