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Aerial view of the 2.4km road bridge crossing the river between Runcorn and Widnes



With more than 250,000 miles of road network throughout the UK, highways are the vital arteries that move people and goods around our nation, supporting economies and connecting communities.

The Climate & Biodiversity Emergency has caused us to look anew at the UK's highways sector. In particular, how can we try to reconcile the mobility we are used to with the urgent need to change our lifestyles and their impact upon the planet?

Lorry travelling at speed along road above walkway on Ely Bypass
Destructor bridge lit up against a dark night sky
Aerial view of bridge approaching the Lower Hatea bascule bridge with housing and green fields in the background

Setting the standards higher

Two arrows pointing up

Historically, new highway schemes in sensitive locations - such as National Parks and AONBs – faced the greatest political and planning hurdles.

But with severe budget constraints and increasing awareness of the need to ensure ‘value for carbon’ as well as value for money, we can now expect every new highway scheme to be scrutinised across the widest range of metrics. These will include social, economic and climate benefits and projects should not be progressed unless they demonstrate excellent credentials.

This will require exceptional leadership from the earliest stages, giving the mandate for creative design and effective communication to stakeholders.

Behavioural change

Arrows pointing in all directions

Providing access to mobility without a heavy carbon cost means behavioural change away from private car use to public transport and active travel modes. Highway schemes must support this beneficial modal shift while remaining resilient for essential uses.

Project owners must embrace the opportunities that come with new projects, as well as reallocating highway space to vehicular public transport and to active travel, including:

  • reducing the maintenance burden for asset owners
  • supporting biodiversity
  • improving air quality
  • tackling congestion
  • enabling transition to zero carbon motoring
  • improving safety for all users
  • providing shade through tree planting



Extreme weather events are now measured in decades, or even years, so we must ensure the road schemes we design are ever more robust and reliable.

To achieve this, collaboration between infrastructure architects and engineers is essential. Creative dialogue can result in innovative solutions, addressing multiple challenges and solving problems far beyond their original parameters. In doing so, much greater value is achieved for the financial and carbon investment.

Adding value from the outset

Design thinking should start at the beginning of a project and continue until the end. It is a creative response that is influenced by everything that comes before it.

Knight Architects’ innovative design leadership asks the right questions from the outset, helping to shape the direction of the project and leading sensitive and efficient solutions.