Campaign group Just Stop Oil said it welcomed the “challenge” of new motorway gantry designs, which are supposed to stop trespassers .
The redesigned overhead structures will be “more resilient to trespassers”, according to National Highways, with access ladders inside rather than outside the pillars. However, it stressed that anti-protester measures had not been part of the design brief.
Last year, Just Stop Oil protesters repeatedly scaled gantries on the M25, hanging banners from them. Their actions brought traffic on the UK’s busiest motorway to a half on several days in November. The protest group said it welcomed the “challenge” of the new design.
The gantries are used to display information such as speed limits, journey times and warnings of safety hazards and are vital to the operation of the country’s network of smart motorways.
National Highways held a competition to redesign the structures as part of a push to “beautify” England’s motorways and A-roads, which also included recommendations such as “minimising clutter” and providing “clues” about how to drive.
The agency said: “Although security issues did not form part of the original specification, the new design will be more resilient to trespassers due to entry being concealed within the pillars, making it more difficult to access without authorisation.”
A spokesperson for Just Stop Oil told the Guardian: “Just Stop Oil have always said the disruption will end immediately when the government agrees to end new oil and gas. Until then we look forward to the challenges the new gantry designs provide.”
The winning entry was produced by London-based architecture company Useful Studio. It was selected for its “simplicity and elegance”. The gantries will have a lower carbon footprint compared with current designs as they use less steel.
National Highways executive director for operations, Duncan Smith said: “Existing designs tend to emphasise function over form. Our challenge is to create innovative structures that can accommodate the required signage and equipment that are more sympathetic to the environment.
“In selecting Useful Studio as the winner, the judging panel admired the simplicity and elegance of the pared-back design approach.”
Roads minister Richard Holden said: “Congratulations to Useful Studio and National Highways for their success in creating a modern, secure design that is set to redefine the look and feel of our motorways and roads.
“Their innovative approach is bound to improve the daily journeys of countless motorists while also contributing to a more sustainable future.”