Campaigners claim victory

The shared space at Catherine Street
The shared space at Catherine Street

Campaigners against the shared space at Kirkintilloch town centre are claiming victory after a damning report by a group of influential MPs.

The cross-party UK Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee said the government should call a halt to local shared spaces to take into account disabled people’s views and needs.

New guidance, said the committee, should instruct local authorities that controlled crossings and regular height kerbs are to be retained.

Thousands of local people have been campaigning for the past two years against the introduction of the new road layout at Cowgate because of safety fears. But East Dunbartonshire Council’s ruling administration has ploughed ahead regardless.

MPs on the Equalities Committee made their recommendation after hearing a “striking” amount of safety concerns from a range of witnesses. One blind person said he had been “left stranded in his new home” after a shared space scheme was built outside his front door.

Campaigners Sandy Taylor, who is blind and Strathkelvin MSP Rona Mackay have been at the forefront of the local campaign.

Mr Taylor is standing as an Independent candidate in the Lenzie and Kirkintilloch South seat.

Ms Mackay, who has been calling for the safety lights at the busy Catherine Street/Kerr Street junction to be reinstalled, said: “The report from the Women and Equalities Committee comes as no surprise to me, given it highlights the very safety concerns I have been raising about the shared space scheme in Kirkintilloch since I entered office.

“I welcome the advice from MPs that the needs of disabled pedestrians should be at the front and centre of shared space designs and planning. While this seems like common sense, the Labour/Tory administration on East Dunbartonshire Council has done nothing of the sort.

“Our calls for action to help people living with disabilities at the shared space have been met with deaf ears.

“When the SNP group proposed returning safety crossings to the Catherine Street junction in March, it was 
rejected by Labour and 
Tory councillors in administration.

“In the report, the account of the blind man being trapped in his home after a shared space was constructed on his doorstep is absolutely heartbreaking.

“Just last Monday, I saw an elderly man get the fright of his life crossing at Catherine Street when a car careered in front of him as he was crossing the road – a clear sign the right of way is not understood by motorists.

“This is a vindication for all those who have been speaking out against inappropriately located shared space initiatives and I expect the next council administration, no matter who is elected, to act on this for the sake of all pedestrians and motorists, before something terrible happens.”

Evonne Bauer, East Dunbartonshire Council’s Strategic Lead – Place and Community Planning, said: “We have already given a 
commitment to review the Cowgate scheme in Kirkintilloch after a bedding-in period and reports such as this one from the Women and Equalities Committee can feed into that wider review.”