Context 152 - November 2017

14 C O N T E X T 1 5 2 : N O V E M B E R 2 0 1 7 the definitive heritage surfaces, even though many areas would have been surfaced with rammed earth, stone macadam or similar. Here, bitumen macadam surfaces, surface dressing or clear-coated stone surfacing may be truer to the original than a new surface of setts or flags. One of the biggest threats to traditional paving is a concern about litigation over trips and falls. But the primary danger in streets is moving traffic, not the paving. Block paving, according to research commissioned in preparation for the 2007 government guidance Manual for Streets , reduces traffic speeds by 2–5 miles per hour. It is likely that sett paving will reduce speeds further through the psychological effect of travelling on a surface that is different to regular bitumen macadam. Highway authorities have a duty to ‘maintain the highway’ under s41 of the Highways Act 1980. This generally means inspecting and repairing the fabric of the existing highway to a reasonable standard. But traditional paving may not be unsafe. A hidden rocking slab or a small trip hazard in an area of otherwise smooth paving may not be obvious, and can act as a trap for the unwary. But a large area of continuous uneven paving will be entirely obvious, and irregularities will be expected and anticipated. For this reason, the paving may not be hazardous.There is no duty on the highway authority to create the surface of a bowling green.The common law places on road users a duty to have regard to their own safety, and to take the road as they find it. The Equality Act 2010 introduced the ‘public sec- tor equality duty’, and a requirement under specific circumstances where disabled people are affected to make adjustments to enable access: ‘where a physical feature puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage in relation to a relevant matter in comparison with persons who are not disabled, to take such steps as it is reasonable to have to take to avoid the disadvantage.’ The act proposes alternatives: (a) removing the physical feature in question, (b) altering it, or (c) providing a reasonable means of avoiding it. In some areas there can be a compromise by sensitively creating areas of smoother paving, such as stone flags, an overlay of a bound material or even gravel. In other areas such measures may not be possible, and the question will arise: does an adjustment to the access to an historic environment that involves its partial destruction constitute a reasonable adjustment? Ageing populations will increase pressures to make adjustments. Does this age group really demand changes that would deny to future generations the historic environment that they enjoyed in their youth? Documentation on the nationwide picture of tradi- tional paving is sparse. English Heritage’s Streets for All (2005) series was one of the few attempts to identify paving traditions and sources on a regional basis.There have been individual studies of local areas, often by conservation officers who have seen the need to highlight the traditional materials and patterns of use, in order to inform the design of public realm schemes. But there is little systematic analysis, or focus, for collecting small-scale local studies. The British Geological Society has made major advances through the production of county stone atlases under the Strategic Stone Study,which catalogues much of the building stone in the UK. Through the efforts of Michael Heap of the stone supplier CED, British Geological Society head office near Keyworth, Nottinghamshire, is home to a geological pavement: a permanent exhibit of some 40 different paving types used in the UK.Wonderful though this is, there are many more types of paving to record and cherish. There is a need for something akin to an atlas of traditional paving in the UK, with maps showing the distribution of paving traditions, existing and historic sources of materials, and the main locations of ‘imported’ stone (for example, towns with extensive areas of York stone, Pennant and Caithness, far removed from those sources). The atlas would need to be richly illustrated with examples of the materials and, importantly, how they are laid. Geological maps would be included, explaining the rich and complex distribution of materials. Our preliminary feasibility studies have indicated that the British Geological Survey is interested in collaborating in this project. Conservation officers and civic societies might be interested in adding local knowledge to it. Few people today can identify the different types of material used in traditional paving, or the different techniques used in laying. Nor is there a record of what we have. Both the knowledge and material is being lost. We cherish fine buildings; let us cherish fine streets and paving in the same way. Richard Guise is an architect and planner with Context4D. A co-author of English Heritage’s Streets for All, he specialises in the public realm and characterisation. He co-author of Characterising Neighbourhoods, due to be published in October. David Harrison is a retired House of Commons clerk and medieval historian. In the House of Commons he served in many positions, including as clerk of the environment, transport and regions committee. He has published many articles on medieval architecture and transport. His book on The Bridges of Medieval England was published by OUP in 2004. Robert Huxford is director of the Urban Design Group. The distribution of types of paving in south west (left) and south east England (Map by Richard Guise) All photos by Robert Huxford except where otherwise credited