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Friday, 20 September, 2002, 11:32 GMT 12:32 UK
Britons name 'best and worst streets'
Streatham High Road
Rubbish did not help Streatham High Road's case
The importance of good town planning to British people has been highlighted by a survey of the best and worst streets in the country.

Experts named Grey Street in Newcastle upon Tyne as the country's finest, after wading through more than 1,500 nominations for a BBC Radio 4 Today programme poll.

Grey Street's "sensitively restored and improved" vistas were contrasted against the "urban decay" and "traffic chaos" of Streatham High Road - which was named as the worst street in Britain.

John Rouse, chief executive of the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (Cabe) which judged the poll, said it showed people cared about the area they lived and worked in.

"Streets are places not just routes, they're where we congregate they're where we meet, they're where ideas are born," he said.

"They're part of our civic structure and we ought to respect them."


Many voters suggested Grey Street was among the greatest streets in "England if not Europe".

Britain's best streets
1) Grey Street - Newcastle upon Tyne
2) High Pavement - Nottingham
3) Buchanan Street - Glasgow
4) New Street - Birmingham
5) Water Street / Castle Street - Liverpool

One described coming up the steps from the Metro every morning and being "filled with joy at the sight of the street unfolding".

It was said to be busy day and night, and praised for successfully balancing the needs of pedestrians and traffic.

In second place was Nottingham's High Pavement - a street with "lots of character" and with "some great historic buildings which are celebrated with excellent paving and good pedestrian access".

Despite failing to make the top five, Marylebone High Street was the best street in London, winning plaudits for its role as "a haven in the middle of the frantic city".

'Defies belief'

Few people were able to think of kind comments to make about south London's Streatham High Road.

Grey Street in Newcastle
Grey Street was "respected by Geordies and visitors alike"
It was derided for its choking traffic, including "a junction which defies belief and is permanently marked by a single ever-shifting traffic cone".

The street's "run-down shop fronts, broken lighting, cramped and broken pavements and an ever-growing number of Met yellow signs advertising violent crime" were also highlighted.

Outside the capital, the number one street of shame was Oxford's newly pedestrianised Cornmarket.

It was described as "an example of small mindedness, inefficiency and ineptitude" by one voter, while another said it was "filthy, dirty, smelly and an embarrassment".

Leatherhead High Street did little better, with one respondent calling it "an example of cheap and thoughtless pedestrianisation taking the heart out of a whole town".

'Pedestrian deaths'

Mr Rouse said he had been surprised by the level of response, including many nominations from people who sent photographs in to demonstrate their point.
Britain's worst streets
1) Streatham High Road - London
2) Cornmarket - Oxford
3) Drakes Circus - Plymouth
4) Maid Marian Way - Nottingham
5) Leatherhead High Street - Surrey

He said: "It's worth reminding ourselves just why we are doing this.

"Yes, it's fun exposing good and bad practice, but there are some very serious things behind it.

"You know we have the highest rate of child pedestrian deaths in Europe - twice as many as Scandinavia - and one of the reasons for that is because our streets are no longer safe places to walk to school or to play."

Mr Rouse suggested a good street should:

  • Feel safe - with natural surveillance provided by people looking on
  • Provide a balance between pedestrians, cyclists and cars - which should not dominate
  • Show sensitivity to history - including new developments, street furniture and road works.
See also:

25 Oct 01 | Arts
23 Jan 02 | England
04 Oct 01 | England
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