I believe it’s worth noting that the choice of road markings, if any, is a matter of judgment. There is certainly guidance on best practice and the choice of yellow lines is, in most situations, the default choice. They are a common solution to a common need – but there are no absolutes. As with the Building Regulations, the guidance given in official documents is, exactly what it says, guidance. This is why it is possible in historic buildings to design solutions that vary from the standard guidance.
So, if much of Faversham’s historic building stock can comply with legal requirements in non-standard ways – then why not its historic streets and spaces too? Well, the same principle can indeed be applied to the design of the built environment. Yellow lines are not a requirement; other solutions are also possible as the briefest of internet searches will reveal.
Nevertheless, there is a view that further painting is required in Faversham’s historic town centre to complete the plans set out in the April 2014 Traffic Order. But again, it’s worth understanding why the lines were part-painted in the first place. That decision was made as a direct result of last year’s popular Yellow Lines public campaign which was supported by over 1500 local people as well as internationally recognised experts in public realm design. As part of this campaign I held discussions with Brian Planner of Swale BC and Laurence Young of the Faversham Enterprise Partnership a few weeks before the lines were painted. I used this meeting to point out the risks of painting on the historic stones of Middle Row, which would absorb the paint and make it extremely difficult, if not impossible to remove it in the future. These are the oldest laid stones in the town. Clive Sherwood’s guidance was extremely helpful, including his reference to a pamphlet on the street stones of Faversham, which I picked up at the Fleur de Lys.
I also pointed out the historic importance of the Guildhall and its role in “anchoring” the image of Faversham to residents and visitors. To encircle it with municipal paint would, I argued, be to reduce its status significantly. Finally I requested that the yellow lines should not be painted over the narrow brick panels that run across Court Street, in between the larger panels of granite setts. (At some point in its recent history, great care was taken to create a high-quality public realm design for the town centre. I used to use this in talks I gave as a rare example of a town centre that was free of road markings. Faversham was celebrated internationally for bucking the trend. I can no longer give that talk.)
Each of my requests (no paint on Middle Row, no paint around the Guildhall, no paint on the Court Street bricks) was accepted and I was assured at the time that a post-implementation evaluation would be undertaken before further painting, if any, took place. Likewise, I was told that paint was to be used that could easily be removed should the decision subsequently be made to “de-paint” the lines.
Temporary paint was indeed used, as can be seen by the heavy weathering of the lines. I do not believe though that a post-implementation assessment has been undertaken and I have not heard of plans for one to be carried out. Yet this assessment is, in my opinion, a necessary and urgent next step. As I remarked in my question to the March meeting of the Town Council, this should include a survey of parking behaviour and a review of alternative approaches.
Such an assessment would generate evidence of fact to set against the evidence of opinion that currently prevails. It would help address key questions:
Are the yellow lines working?
And, if not, precisely how not?
The assessment should, in my view, form the basis of any further public realm works in the town centre. This would follow good practice in public realm design. Anything less will be worryingly inadequate.