A controversial shared space system for Kirkintilloch town centre was voted through at last night’s meeting of the full council – despite hundreds of people turning up to protest against it.
Disabled campaigners and their supporters said last-minute safety concessions put forward for the road junction plan at Catherine Street by council leader Rhondda Geekie were “not good enough.”
These include the introduction of two pelican crossings at Catherine Street and Kerr Street.
More than 400 people, many of them disabled, protested with placards outside East Dunbartonshire HQ before the meeting took place. Click above to view a video of campaigners.
Gillian Taggart of Kirkintilloch, who is in a wheelchair and has sight problems after suffering a brain tumour, said: “We want this whole plan ditched.”
After the decision, which went through by 13-9 votes, Margaret Hutchison of East Dunbartonshire Visually Impaired Forum told the Herald: “I am absolutely disgusted. Blind people are still at risk.”
Sandy Taylor, Chairman of EDVIP, who has been leading the campaign against the plan, added: “We can’t compromise on safety. We must have railings of some sort. There has been no proper consultation on this.”
Councillor Geekie said the council had taken safety concerns into account but the shared space plan for the town “should not be diluted.”
She added: “We are aware there have been a number of reports of accidents. Our belief in the scheme does not mean we are not listening.”
In addition to the new safety measures, Councillor Geekie moved that council officers continue to support East Dunbartonshire Visually Impaired Forum and other disabled users to safely use the junction during and after its construction.
But SNP group leader Councillor Iain Mackay said more detail was vital before going ahead with the shared space plan.
He recommended a decision on the shared space plan be postponed for equality assessment, safety and audit checks, and consultation with disability groups.
He said: “It’s not good enough. It is very difficult to make shared spaces work. It has taken some countries years, if not decades, to get them right.
“The problem is drivers have to change their attitudes. We have to have more detail in order to make a judgement.”
Members of the public who attended the meeting, including disability campaigners, voiced their agreement for Councillor Mackay from the public gallery.
Mr Taylor told the Herald: “The councillors who put forward the amendment for more detail are absolutely right. There has been no meaningful consultation whatsoever with disability groups.
“We have secured two pelican crossings and we are going to keep fighting.”
He was backed by his fellow SNP councillors and Independent councillors Jack Young and Duncan Cumming.
SNP Councillor Anne McNair said there was “a complete lack of detail” while Independent councillor Jack Young said safety barriers were still needed and pointed out the shared space plan for the town centre also took in the traffic light zone at William Patrick Library. But Councillor Alan Moir said: “It has taken us four years to get to this stage. It’s about the whole economy of Kirkintilloch. This could result in a reduction of empty shops in the town centre by 10 per cent.”
Councillor Keith Small said nobody was against economic benefits but called for evidence on safety and more consultation.
Councillor Geekie agreed with Councillor Mackay it was “about changing drivers attitudes.”
But she added: “Unless we take this forward and cut down the speed of drivers we will not know what is going to work.”
The redesign of the Catherine Street shared space scheme is expected to take up to two years.