Home Zones are environmental schemes designed to restore the balance between those using motorised vehicles and the other users of our urban residential streets, such as pedestrians and cyclists - a relationship in which the car usually dominates, exercising exclusion, noise, injury, and, at worst, death.
The streets chosen as Home Zones are physically modified to inhibit the unrestricted movement of vehicular traffic. But although the control of the circulation of traffic comprises the central aspect of these projects, some proponents of the Home Zones ethos are concerned to ensure that they comprise more than merely ‘glorified traffic calming schemes’. For some, the Home Zone concept embodies the idea of ‘reclaiming the streets’, and things such as flower beds, play areas and fencing which can serve to restrict traffic movement, also become focuses of expression, interaction and proprietorial responsibility for members of the residential community.
The genuine involvement and active participation of local residents forms an essential part of a Home Zone project. But it also requires public funding (a Home Zone design is more expensive to carry out than installing routine traffic calming features), and the consequent commitment of one or more local authorities and their planning and highways departments, and the employment of other independent specialists.
Despite seeming like an idea that most people would identify with and support, Home Zone schemes have almost always engendered some controversy. Motorists' lobbies oppose any further curtailment of their freedom, while for the anti-car campaigners the measures do not go far enough. On a local level, many car owners resent the displacement of parking areas formerly directly adjacent to their houses, while the active encouragement of street play facilities for children goes against the hard-won provision of residential peace and quiet that many seek.
Home Zone Challenge
The Home Zone concept originated in the Netherlands during the 1970s. The idea spread to other north European countries, and in some a legal priority for pedestrians over traffic in assigned Home Zone streets has been established.
Following the lead of these continental initiatives, the British government gave its support and sponsorship in 1999/2000 to nine pilot Home Zone schemes in England and Wales. In 2001 the government announced an acceleration of this initial trial period by providing £30 million to fund 61 Home Zone schemes across England . Called the Home Zone Challenge, and undertaken by the Department for Transport (working with the Children's Play Council and Transport 2000), this offer was oversubscribed, 237 bids for funding being received from local authorities. Available for the period 2001-2004, government funding of up to 100% of the total estimated capital cost could be bid for, including design and consultation fees. Suffolk County Council and Waveney District Council successfully bid for £484,000 funding from the Home Zone Challenge Fund for Oxford and Cambridge Roads in North Lowestoft.
Artists and Home Zones
Every Home Zone project is different - reflecting the unique qualities of each zone is really the point of the exercise. Artists have taken part in Home Zone projects in various ways, from opening a temporary art gallery in an empty house to showing residents how to decorate their wheelie bins. However, the Oxbridge Home Zone project was the first to employ an artist from the outset as part of the project team, rather than being seconded at a later stage to create decorative street embellishments or to contribute to a celebratory street event. No other Home Zone project in Great Britain has employed a visual artist in this way. As such, the Oxbridge Home Zone is unique at this time, and described as "a high profile innovative project".
Contacts for Further Information
Home Zones: The UK Experience is a video including a section about the Oxbridge Home Zone, produced by Heads Together Productions for Transport 2000/Childrens Play Council. It can be ordered from Marston Book Services: Tel 01235 465 500.
Websites for further information about Home Zones in general:
© Copyright David Briers 2004