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Urban Design Compendium

Case Study 067 - De-ringing the ring road

067 - Ashford, Kent

Ashford is one of the UK’s four major growth hubs under the Government’s Sustainable Communities Plan. Fundamental to this plan was the need to improve the town centre to create a viable and sustainable place for living and working. Central to this strategy was the need to break the ring road ‘collar’, improve connectivity and unlock potential development sites.

Inspired by the concept of ‘shared space’ and a more enlightened approach to streetscape design, the transformation of roads into more civilised public spaces was at the heart of the design. The key principles included:

  • respond to local context not to slavishly follow highway regulations
  • legible, logical public realm which gives expression to a hierarchy of routes and spaces
  • integrated streets not roads
  • inclusive public realm which promotes use and engenders interaction and respect amongst users
  • better balance between all users of the street
  • a fully integrated approach to ART (working with 3 artists from the outset), the ENVIRONMENT (incorporating sustainable urban drainage) and ENGINEERING (a design-led approach to traffic management)

This has resulted in reduced speeds and accidents, and improved environmental quality and civility.

High level political backing was needed, and a ‘Champions Group’ established to ensure that the overall vision was not compromised. An extensive programme of engagement and reeducation was undertaken, and the integrated, inter-disciplinary design team worked collaboratively with stakeholders, access groups, and the community throughout.

Technical performance of materials, buildability and maintenance were as important as aesthetics. Lifecycle costs were considered and the capital budget top-sliced to increase maintenance budgets over the first three years. A county-wide study has been commissioned on future Maintenance and Management protocols.

Other Information

  • Key partners: Kent County Council, Engineers: Jacobs, Shared space consultant: Ben Hamilton-Baillie
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UDC2 Section - From Vision to Reality 

Public art and lighting have formed an integrated part of the designs that have transformed Ashford’s ring road.Images (image bank)