A construction website in Belarus reports on an important document on UK street design and now Alex Smith is using it in a squabble with his local council. Talk about a global village …

With a population density a fifth of the UK, Belarus may not strike you as likely to obsess about road and traffic problems, but this month the Minsk-based website Construction and Maintenance News was one of the online sources to report the release of a document that may transform the appearance of British streets.

Manual for Streets is a government guide offering enlightened advice on street design to highway engineers and architects.

It replaces the outdated Design Bulletin 32, which was more of a manual for culs-de-sac.

There hasn’t been much of a song and dance about this guide. Perhaps the Department of Transport is wary of creating publicity for any initiative in case it give us more excuses to moan about roadworks and cone hotlines.

However, this latest document has a point – its authors appear to realise that the design of streets makes a massive contribution to an area’s well being and is not just about reducing the speed of traffic at any cost.

It’s also an important document to me, as it forms the main plank of my argument against council plans to introduce a profusion of unnecessary traffic calming measures in my neighbourhood.

There is no mention of speed bumps in the document, or any of the other offensive measures that my council has planned for our leafy, historic street. Instead, Manual for Streets showcases intelligent street design that uses measures appropriate to the local environment, like in Poundbury, Dorset, and Newhall, Essex. It tries to move engineers away from prescriptive measures and reassure them they won’t be prosecuted if they do.

There is plenty on the web about intelligent design.

English Heritage and Cabe are running campaigns on improving street design and the latter has examples of how street design can improve the appearance of the built environment as well as road safety.