A new report has urged the Government to call a halt on new shared space schemes, and undertake an urgent review of those already in place.
Published on Tuesday (25 April), the Women and Equalities Committee report recommends a moratorium until the Government produces ‘clear national guidance that explicitly addresses the needs of disabled people’.
The term ‘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.
However, the Women and Equalities Committee report points to evidence which it says suggests that these schemes are excluding disabled people.
The report says the guidance should ‘instruct local authorities that controlled crossings and regular height kerbs are to be retained and that they should undertake an urgent review of existing schemes, working with disabled people… to identify the changes that are necessary and practicable’.
Lord Holmes of Richmond MBE, a blind former paralympic swimming champion and long-term campaigner against shared spaces, told the Transport Network website that he was ‘delighted’ with the outcome of the inquiry.
Launched in August 2016, the Committee’s inquiry sought to explore ways to improve access and inclusion for disabled people in built up areas, including a focus on shared spaces. The report urges the Government not to ‘shy away’ from the debate on shared spaces, but instead to ‘take leadership’.
The Committee says the guidance should also lay down consistent national standards so that disabled people can navigate, learn and independently use such schemes anywhere in the country, and make it clear that safety and usability requirements, such as controlled crossings and kerbs, are not optional.
Lord Holmes, who gave evidence to the Committee’s inquiry, told Transport Network: “I’m delighted that the committee agree with my recommendation that a moratorium on shared space schemes is necessary. Local authorities require clarity in this space and the exclusion of people from their communities and potential waste of public money must end.
“The impact on people’s lives when public spaces are not accessible is devastating. Inclusive design must be the golden thread that runs through all new buildings and works in the public realm.”