Councillor Rhondda Geekie, leader of East Dunbartonshire Council, has hit back at critics of work currently being carried out in Kirkintilloch Town Centre.
She was responding to claims from disabled campaigners that the controvertial project was “all about money” due to a portion of the funding coming from Sustrans.
And Councillor Geekie also insisted that the completed work would NOT constitute a shared space - despite what campaigners believe.
She said: “One of the principles at the heart of the Kirkintilloch Town Centre Masterplan is to make the area more accessible for everyone - regardless of age or ability.
“That is why I am becoming increasingly concerned at repeated attacks on the work to improve Kirkintilloch town centre. We were told something had to be done as the town was dying - that much was clear from the thousands of people who took part in the Masterplan consultation.
“If we continually decry Kirkintilloch and also make statements such as ‘disabled people can no longer use the high street’ we are causing fear and alarm for everyone - and potentially creating a self-fulfilling prophecy that will only cause damage to our town centre traders.
“I refute entirely the comment - as quoted in last week’s Herald - that it is ‘all about money’. This is all about ensuring the town centre survives and grows stronger, and the many changes in the plan show how valuable the various consultations were to the process.
“Sustrans and Strathclyde Partnership for Transport have provided funding, but support has also come from the Council’s capital programme - which is funded differently and completely separate from the revenue budget, which pays for day-to-day services.
“We are taking action in the town centre because it is the right thing to do. The easy option would be to do nothing.
“I also refute an allegation that the junction trial conducted in August/September 2014 was a ‘shambles’. The trial was done to highlight any problems when the traffic lights were not being used and it showed that the concept successfully worked within Kirkintilloch. The trial also successfully underwent two independent RSAs.
“Further, it is wholly untrue to say the Council did not listen - indeed East Dunbartonshire Visually Impaired People’s Forum and Mr Taylor were among the most vociferous and compelling forces for change.
“Their input helped to ensure that work is NOT taking place to create a ‘shared space’.
“Changes as a direct result of extensive consultation included controlled crossings in Catherine Street and Kerr Street, 60mm kerbs and the introduction of a 20mph speed limit.
“The Council invited the UK’s leading pedestrian rights charity, Living Streets, to independently appraise the plans. It concluded that this is not a ‘shared space’ but will lead to a better balanced street in the Cowgate for pedestrians of all abilities.
“I would appeal to everyone to work together to support Kirkintilloch town centre businesses and ensure it has a bright future.
“We know there has been ongoing disruption for traders, shoppers and residents, and we apologise for any inconvenience, but we are continually monitoring works and making adjustments where necessary. We do hope this work will encourage more businesses to come to Kirkintilloch and we ask that you continue to support the ones we already have.”