News story

Our streets shouldn't be an obstacle course

Call for councils to get rid of unnecessary clutter in a bid to make streets tidier and less confusing for motorists and pedestrians.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Cluttered street

A cluttered street in Liverpool

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has called for unnecessary signs, railings and bollards to be removed in a bid to make streets tidier and safer - saying “We need to cut the clutter”.

Mr Pickles believes that many traffic signs and railings are put up in the mistaken belief that they are legally required. Although some signs are required by law, government advice is that they are most effective when kept to a minimum.

Watch a video of Eric Pickles discussing decluttering measures

Video transcript (MS Word Document, 25.5KB)

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said:

“Our streets are losing their English character. We are being overrun by scruffy signs, bossy bollards, patchwork paving and railed off roads wasting taxpayers’ money that could be better spent on fixing potholes or keeping council tax down. We need to ‘cut the clutter’.

“Too many overly cautious townhall officials are citing safety regulations as the reason for cluttering up our streets with an obstacle course when the truth is very little is dictated by law. Common sense tells us uncluttered streets have a fresher, freer authentic feel, which are safer and easier to maintain.”

Councils urged to cut the clutter

Councils have been urged to get rid of unnecessary clutter in a bid to make streets tidier and less confusing for motorists and pedestrians.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles and Transport Secretary Philip Hammond are concerned that the character of the country’s urban spaces is being damaged and have today written to councils leaders.

Philip Hammond said:

“We all know that some signs are necessary to make our roads safe and help traffic flow freely. But unnecessary street furniture is a waste of taxpayers’ money and leaves our streets looking more like scrap yards than public spaces.

“We have written to councils to remind them that it need not be this way - we don’t need all this clutter confusing motorists, obstructing pedestrians and hindering those with disabilities who are trying to navigate our streets.”

Big Society solution

Mr Pickles wants communities to tell councils about particularly bad examples of clutter as part of the Big Society in action. Organisations like [Civic Voice], [Living Streets] and [] are already helping people alert councils to examples of clutter and showing people how to carry out street audits.

Mr Pickles added:

“Organisations like Civic Voice, Living Streets and fixmystreet can help councils provide a Big Society solution - local people carrying out street audits will bring power and character back to neighbourhoods.”

The Salisbury Civic Society concluded, after carrying out a survey of over 60 streets, that it has become cluttered over time markedly reducing its character. They found the city centre was littered with hundreds of bollards including one parking area for 53 cars had 63 bollards.

Tony Burton, Director of Civic Voice, said:

“Too many streets are plagued with pointless clutter, blighting the local environment and people’s lives. With today’s welcome backing from the Government we should reclaim our streets and see them cleared of clutter.”

Further information

Decluttering Kensington & Chelsea’s High Street saw a 40% reduction in road traffic accidents and a 60% reduction in pedestrian accidents.

Photographs of typical cluttered streets are available from the DCLG Flickr channel

Published 26 August 2010