Council must act after damning report on shared space, says Strathkelvin MSP

Another day, another damaged bollard at Kirkintilloch's shared space
Another day, another damaged bollard at Kirkintilloch's shared space

A damning report on shared spaces by a group of influential MPs is a “vindication” for all those who have spoken out against the controversial Kirkintilloch project says Strathkelvin MSP Rona Mackay.

The local SNP MSP said whoever forms the administration after next week’s council elections must act “before something terrible happens”.

Ms Mackay has been calling for the return of safety lights at the busy Catherine Street/Kerr Street junction with Cowgate, removed as part of the new road layout.

She and local disabled campaigner Sandy Taylor, who is standing as an Independent candidate at the council elections, have been at the forefront of the protest against the divisive project in the town centre.

Anti-shared space campaigners are now claiming victory after the cross-party UK Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee recommended 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.

Ms Mackay said today: “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 on 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 today: “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.”

A recent report in the Herald told how the council are to wait until September before carrying out “extensive monitoring” on the new road layout.

Thousands of people in Kirkintilloch and beyond have been protesting against the shared space for the past two years because of safety fears, particularly for disabled and elderly people. A 3,500-signatured petition against the new road layout and the removal of the traffic lights was handed in to East Dunbartonshire Council in April 2015, while up to 400 people protested outside council HQ.