Conserving and Enhancing Country Lanes in the Surrey Hills AONB
The Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is one of 38 AONBs in England and Wales, covering 15% of the land area. They are designated by the Government for the purpose of ensuring that the special qualities of our finest landscapes are conserved and enhanced.
The appearance of the Surrey Hills has been shaped for centuries by the changing patterns of land use and settlement. The end result is a rich and diverse built heritage featuring many small farmsteads, pleasant hamlets with village greens, and grand houses set in parkland. Local materials like stone, flint, tile, brick and timber are featured throughout the Surrey Hills, defining the sense of place.
An essential constituent of the Surrey Hills AONB is the network of winding, narrow, secluded lanes, often with high banks and hedgerows, connecting villages and hamlets. These lanes are often rich in history, reflecting centuries of human use and still retain much of their traditional charm.
This document sets out guidance for conserving and enhancing country lanes and villages in the Surrey Hills AONB to help Surrey County Council, local planning authorities, transport planners, contractors, developers, parish council’s and other parties. It sets out some principles and best practices that should be considered in managing country lanes and the design of development within the Surrey Hills.
 PRINCIPAL ROADS THROUGH THE SURREY HILLS
As Surrey has a higher level of car ownership than any other county, the impact of traffic on the Surrey Hills is perhaps greater than on any other AONB or National Park. This is largely due to its close proximity to London and other urban areas and high car ownership rates resulting in high volumes of traffic passing through the area.
Encouraging through traffic and HGVs to keep to principal roads will help to protect the quality of the area, particularly the country lanes which are not designed to cope with large volumes of traffic and HGVs.
The principle is to keep through traffic and HGV movements to the principal road network. This should be reflected in the signage strategy. Signage to minor roads should only indicate local access and should avoid encouraging through traffic to larger destinations.
 Promote ‘Drive slowly – enjoy’
As journey times are often significantly impacted by congestion at junctions, there should be appropriate awareness and educational messages that reducing speed should not significantly affect overall travel time. In travelling through the Surrey Hills, drivers are encouraged to ‘drive slowly and enjoy’ the surroundings and not attempt to take short cuts through country lanes.
Designing and managing country lanes in line with the following principles will create an environment that is more attractive and help to encourage a safer and more considerate approach to driving in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There are photographs that identify how the principles have been implemented in the Surrey Hills, often with local funding and low maintenance measures.
Timber bollards, marker posts and other roadside furniture should be used as they are generally more in keeping with the rural scene, do not need painting or become dirty in appearance and are not easily damaged. Plastic roadside furniture (eg verge posts) and reflective metal signs should be kept to a minimum.
 Value the treatment of boundaries
Traditional boundary features such as walls, fences and hedges are important elements of local landscape character and should be retained and repaired where feasible by the landowner. New boundary features should reflect local traditions in the use of materials and construction, especially in conservation areas. For hedges, a mix of native species will usually be the best option. Exotic species such as leylandii should be avoided.
Highway improvements should consider reinforcing the existing geometry of country lanes. The use of surface dressing can be helpful in certain situations, but colour changes should be achieved through the natural colour of the aggregates used rather than the use of colour additives which can look alien and will quickly fade. Urban materials and solutions, for example concrete kerbing, will look incongruous in rural locations and should be avoided.
In accord with the traffic signs manual, road markings should be avoided or in some cases removed. Edge lining should be used with care, usually to highlight road space for vulnerable road users or where other solutions to verge erosion are impractical. Rumble strips should have a sensory rather than visual impact.
 Reduce clutter and urbanising influences
The appropriateness of signage should be reviewed regularly with a view to removing unnecessary or redundant signs and amalgamating signs onto fewer posts. Through signing should be avoided along country lanes. Signs directing traffic into and along country lanes should only indicate the next village or hamlet. Local requests for additional signs should be considered carefully based on evidence that additional signs have little or no effect on road safety.
 Celebrate local distinctiveness
Where practical, preserve and restore existing distinctive and historical finger posts, village signs and other roadside furniture. Where this is not possible, replace with similar materials and design details. Some highway furniture is listed and afforded statutory protection. Extra care is needed to protect them from damage. The design of new finger posts and village signs should reflect local traditions and materials.
For street names, traditionally black and white signs are generally preferable where local funding is available. Where street names occur adjacent to other timber structures, then timber support will be more appropriate, but recycled plastic posts are acceptable for most situations.
 Enhance the biodiversity of verges
Verge management is a complex issue that requires careful planning to ensure that safety and operational considerations are thought through. However, there are opportunities within the AONB to increase the biodiversity of highway verges and to manage verges that already have floristic interest. Changes to the management of verges need to reflect local circumstances and will need to be agreed with the responsible local authority. Within safety guidelines maintain sight lines, particularly at junctions, enhance the biodiversity value of verges with appropriate mowing regimes.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty AONB.
- Conservation area.
- Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.
- Highways England.
- Road development process.
- Road improvement scheme consultation.
- Road traffic management.
- Surrey Hills, Environmental Design Guide.
Surrey Hills Directory
Conserving and Enhancing Country Lanes in the Surrey Hills AONB