What do you need to consider in road planning?

Did you know there are over 247,000 miles of road in Great Britain? Whether motorways, A roads, or residential streets, roads are essential in helping us get around.

But who determines where a new road goes, who designs it, and what factors have to be taken into consideration?

At Hazell & Jefferies, we specialise in carrying out civil engineering works. This means we’re experts in constructing and maintaining a wide range of different road types. The relevant authorities will ask us to lay the road, and we’ll do it on their behalf.

If you’ve ever wondered how a road goes from the drawing board to being constructed, this guide will explain everything you need to know.

  • Who is responsible for ordering a new road to be laid?
  • What is the process for identifying if a road is needed?
  • What needs to be taken into consideration when planning a road?
    • Amount of traffic
    • Types of vehicles that will use the road
    • The land the road is built on
    • Noise, pollution, and wildlife
    • Safety measures
    • Futureproofing
  • Hazell & Jefferies: Not just asphalt contractors


Who is responsible for ordering a new road to be laid?

It depends on where the road is and what type of road it is.

Highways England (formerly the Highways Agency) is responsible for motorways and major A roads in England, with the exception of London. 

While this is only about 2% of all the roads, it’s important to remember that these roads carry a third of all traffic, as well as lots of heavy-duty vehicles. 

Roads in Scotland are managed by Transport Scotland, while Welsh roads are managed by the Welsh Government.

All roads in London, no matter the type, are the responsibility of Transport for London. Similarly, the Department for Infrastructure Roads manages all roads in Northern Ireland.

All other roads are the responsibility of the local authority. If multiple councils manage a particular area, the responsibility typically falls to the County Council.

The construction of new roads on housing estates is the responsibility of the developer. However, in most cases, the roads are eventually ‘adopted’ by the local authority, which then takes on responsibility for the maintenance of the road.

Private roads, for example, a road leading to a farm, are the responsibility of the homeowner or landlord.


What is the process for identifying if a road is needed?

The process generally depends on where the road is needed and which authority is responsible. Let’s look at a hypothetical example.

A town has experienced a surge in growth over the past twenty years, and as a result, there has been an increase in traffic going in and out of the area. The council’s town planners have recommended that a new road be built to take pressure off the existing road layout.

Following the recommendation from town planners, a feasibility study is carried out. This looks at how much the road will cost to build, what land will need to be purchased, and the environmental impact of constructing the road.

If the feasibility study comes back positive, a business case is developed. This business case weighs up the advantages and disadvantages of building the road, as well as the effect on the local community. Residents, business owners, and other interest groups will be invited to have their say in a consultation.

Finally, the business case goes to the councillors to decide the outcome. The specific decision-making process varies from council to council. Some decisions are made by high-ranking councillors known as the cabinet or executive, while others are made by a committee of cross-party councillors. For a road that covers different council areas, multiple local authorities may need to get involved.

When the business case is agreed upon, the council starts taking steps to construct the new road. One key part of this process involves choosing high-quality construction companies to work with, like Hazell & Jefferies!


What needs to be taken into consideration when planning a road?

So we’ve looked at the process of deciding whether a road is required or not. However, what objectives need to be taken into consideration when designing a road?

Here’s what government departments, civil engineers, and construction companies need to bear in mind.


1. Amount of traffic

It’s essential to identify the projected amount of traffic that will use the road. A sleepy country road that sees two cars an hour will need to be constructed differently to a busy motorway that sees thousands of vehicles an hour.

Roads that see more traffic are made of stronger materials like concrete or asphalt. These roads are also more comprehensive, with more lanes to accommodate increased levels of traffic. 

It’s also important to remember that busier roads may be subject to more stringent regulations, as high-speed accidents are more likely to occur.

Busy A roads and motorways may also need additional amenities, like petrol stations and service stations.

If an upsurge in the amount of traffic is expected in the future, the planners must accommodate this too.


2. Type of vehicles that will use the road

As well as the projected amount of traffic, it’s imperative to consider the types of vehicles that will use the road. 

Heavy vehicles lead to increased wear and tear, meaning the road may need to be resurfaced more frequently. 

If bridges or flyovers need to be built over the new road, it may mean height restrictions need to be put in place. In this scenario, a diversion needs to be readily available to drivers of these vehicles.


3. The land the road is built on

When constructing a road, it’s important to consider the land on which it will be built. If the authority doesn’t already own the land, it will need to buy it. And depending on who the land is owned by, there is the possibility that they might say no!

The condition of the land needs to be taken into consideration too. In an ideal world, all roads would be built on even terrain, but this generally doesn’t happen. Hilly areas may mean more flooding, which means more drainage is needed. Uneven surfaces mean additional groundwork to ensure a smooth and pleasant drive for road users.


4. Noise, pollution, and wildlife

New roads inevitably lead to increased noise and pollution. You’ll want to put measures in place to ensure people that live and work near the road aren’t inconvenienced.

As part of the business case, it’s essential to look at the needs of local people and see how you can minimise the impact that noise and pollution can have on their livelihood. 

Low-noise surfaces, erecting noise barriers, and insulating people’s homes can make a difference when it comes to noise. Encouraging the use of electric vehicles and greener fuels, as well as using plants and physical barriers, can help reduce air pollution.

It’s also vital to consider animals and how the new road will affect local wildlife levels. For example, how can hedgehogs, badgers, and foxes safely cross your new road without risking injury?


5. Safety measures

While new roads are great for the infrastructure of the UK, the sad fact is that road collisions happen – there were 1,695 fatalities in 2022

Road planners need to put safety measures in place to ensure people can get to where they want to go without incident.

This may mean pedestrian crossings, improved road lighting, speed reduction measures, and speed limits. It’s important to speak to local residents and stakeholders to see what their thoughts are.


6. Futureproofing

What will the future hold when it comes to the way we drive? We’re edging increasingly closer to the 2030 ban on petrol and diesel vehicles in the UK, and self-driving cars are already being tested.

It’s important to consider smart technology. For example, Scotland is currently researching the use of the Internet of Things (IoT) to identify when rural roads have flooded or need to be repaired.

Civil engineers and highway planners must keep two steps ahead of the latest technology to ensure roads can keep up with the changes.


Hazell & Jefferies: Not just asphalt contractors

We’re pleased to offer a completed turnkey service when it comes to civil engineering for roads. 

When you work with us, we manage the work from start to finish, meaning you don’t have to use multiple contractors. From kerbs to drainage, we can do it all.

Whether you need help with car parks, private roads, footpaths, or public highways, we have the experience required to construct a long-lasting, high-quality surface.

Contact us today to see how we can support your next project.

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