Local Government Minister Grant Shapps has today called on residents to unite and decide how they will use new powers to do a spring clean of their streets, and get rid of the unwanted clutter that blights their neighbourhoods.
Communities will be given new powers to decide how they want their streets to look in future, and how they want existing streets to be changed to suit their needs.
A common complaint from communities across the country, both to Ministers and experts such as Living Streets, is that for too long their areas have been blighted by a unsightly mess of shop signs, billboards and railings that are unwanted and unneeded.
Previously local residents have felt powerless to act, but now new rules in the Localism Bill will mean communities can produce a neighbourhood development plan, which includes policies to improve the public spaces in their area.
This could include reducing street clutter and improving the quality of shop signs and other street furniture. Contributions from developers, which are connected to planning applications for new building projects, would then enable this work to go ahead.
Mr Shapps also argued that people wanting to see a change can get involved in other ways to make clear the clutter from their streets. He urged councils and communities to follow the example of Sutton where, with the help of local people, the council is working to tackle street clutter. Residents have been urged to come forward with their worst examples, which the council can then focus on and tackle.
Sutton is a Big Society vanguard area, and Mr Shapps said that other councils who want to follow their lead but are struggling in the face of bureaucratic burdens should get in touch through the Department’s Barrier Busting website - saying that any council coming forward with suggestions for cutting red tape would be listened to.
It follows the launch of a nationwide campaign against street clutter, where people across the country were encouraged to contact their council with their concerns.
Grant Shapps said:
For years too many streets across the country have been ruined by a tasteless jumble of shop signs, railings and billboards, and the people who live there have been left powerless to clear away this clutter.
Well enough’s enough. We want to give power back to local people so they can decide what their neighbourhoods look like. So residents will soon have new powers to protect and improve the appearance of their neighbourhood.
But people don’t need to wait; they can start taking action straightaway. Just like in Sutton, communities can go to their councils with local examples of street clutter and demand something be done. This is the Big Society in action - communities taking action to improve the lives of local people.
And if councils are facing an uphill battle they can follow in the footsteps of Sutton and get in touch with me - as Sutton has found, they will be pushing at an open door.
Cllr Colin Hall, Sutton Council’s Executive Member for Environment and Climate Change, said:
We’ve made some enormous strides by working with local people to get rid of some of the clutter that blights our streets. The important thing is make sure it’s our residents who design our streets not Whitehall bureaucrats.
We’ve held a street audit where we’ve gone along a street with traders and residents, looking at things like signposts, railings and lighting columns and asking the question: ‘Are these really needed?’ In one area, we’ve managed to do away with around 100m of guard railings and 17 separate traffic light poles on a single junction - without compromising road safety.
It’s a relatively easy thing to do. Although it does cost some money to remove the street clutter, it can work out cheaper in the long run as we see lower maintenance bills.
We’ve still got work to do though. However, we’re pleased to be working with Government to cut through regulation that stops our residents having the neighbourhoods they want.
Tony Armstrong, Chief Executive of Living Streets said:
Pedestrians have to struggle with unnecessary bollards, guard-railing and pointless signs on a daily basis so Living Streets welcomes initiatives to make it easier for local people to rid their communities of the clutter that blights our streets.
Community powers, stronger guidance from central government and a coordinated approach from local councils are all vital to rid our streets of unnecessary obstacles for pedestrians. Councils in particular should use this opportunity to ensure that de-cluttering is prioritised and championed across all departments to help both cost saving and responding to community needs.
Through our own audits with local communities and councils, we have found that stripping back street clutter transforms our streets from trip hazards to enjoyable open spaces where people want to walk. We welcome steps towards cutting the clutter.
Cllr Nick Paget-Brown, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s Cabinet Member for Transportation and Highways, said:
We’ve been carrying out ward-by-ward streetscape reviews since 2003 so it’s not surprising we are fully behind the Government’s efforts to encourage councils and their communities to tackle street clutter. Over this time we’ve worked closely with local businesses and residents’ representatives to identify ways to declutter their neighbourhoods, resulting in the removal of almost 1,000 unnecessary posts and signs. We’ve moved another 200 useful signs to lamp columns, walls or railings.
Notes to editors
1. The Localism Bill will give communities powers to plan for their areas and deliver the development they want through neighbourhood planning. Communities will be able to create a vision of what their area should look like. This will include shop signs, billboards and railings on buildings, as well as influence in deciding where new shops, offices or homes should go and what green spaces should be protected.
2. Many people have great ideas about how they could make their neighbourhood a better place to live. But sometimes barriers get in the way. Red tape, rules and regulations stop people putting good ideas into action. Ministers have set up a team of ‘barrier busters’ dedicated to helping local people put their ideas into action. To find out more about the barrier busting team, and how to submit your request for help, visit the special barrier busting pages at barrierbusting.communities.gov.uk (external link).
3. Other examples of councils tackling street clutter include the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council. Their most recent projects include:
King’s Road - Unnecessary street furniture was removed. Street furniture that continued to serve a useful purpose or, where residents asked, such as heritage bollards, were kept. Where possible, the Royal Borough integrated street lighting columns with traffic signals, signage and litter bins; and
Improvement work to the area outside the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in Fulham Road. These improvements were designed to create an attractive space and to make it easier for the large number of people who use the area to move about more freely. Unnecessary barriers and clutter were removed to create a high quality public space for the hospital frontage: www.rbkc.gov.uk/environmentandtransport/roadsandhighways/chelseaandwestminster.aspx (external link).
Exhibition Road - It runs from South Kensington in the south to Hyde Park in the north, is home to some of the most important visitor attractions in the country. By 2012 the crowded, narrow pavements and heavy traffic will go. In their place they will make a kerb-free surface across the length and width of the road. Pedestrians will have more space and vehicles will be limited to 20mph: www.rbkc.gov.uk/subsites/exhibitionroad.aspx (external link).
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