The Women and Equalities Committee has launched a wide-ranging inquiry into the accessibility of homes, buildings and public spaces, which includes reference to shared space schemes.
The inquiry comes hot on the heels of an appeal earlier this month by the National Federation of the Blind of the UK (NFBUK) for the Government to launch an independent inquiry into the design principles of shared spaces.
The NFBUK campaign has some heavyweight backing in the form of Lord Holmes of Richmond MBE, the blind ex-Paralympic swimming champion who now represents the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and activist Sarah Gayton who described the inquiry as a ‘golden opportunity’.
‘Shared space’ covers a variety of schemes that remove street furniture, often taking out crossings, road markings and curbs on the principle it creates a safer road environment.
Last year Lord Holmes described ‘shared space’ as a “planning folly” and called for “an immediate moratorium on all shared space schemes until thorough impact assessments can be conducted”.
The term ‘built environment’ covers homes, public buildings, commercial premises and the public realm (publicly owned streets, pathways, right of ways, parks, publicly accessible open spaces and any public and civic building and facilities).
Launching the inquiry, Maria Miller, chairman of the Women and Equalities Committee, said: "This area raises some interesting questions, and there is a great deal of scope for innovation.
“For example: how can building information modelling and modern methods of construction, contribute to making environments more accessible and inclusive? How can we deliver greater accessibility and inclusivity alongside more age-friendly towns and cities, including liaison with the NHS?
“To what extent do shared space schemes in roads and highways cause barriers for disabled people and how can these be resolved?
“We need to ensure that buildings and public spaces are as accessible and inclusive as possible, and that communities can fully engage with the process of decision making that shapes the accessibility of the built environment."
Sarah Gayton told the Transport Network website: “This is a golden opportunity and a fundamental game-changer to help make the UK fully accessible for all its people.
“I am glad that the inquiry is not just focussed on shared space because there are many problems in accessibility in this country. And if we get this right we can help the whole world on this issue.”