Disabled campaigner’s challenge to council leader over “shared space” works

Sandy Taylor
Sandy Taylor

One of the most vociferous campaigners against the “shared space” project at Kirkintilloch town centre has rejected council leader Rhondda Geekie’s claims that the work being carried out would “make the area more accessible for everyone - regardless of age or ability.”

Chairman of East Dunbartonshire Visually Impaired People’s Forum, Sandy Taylor, who is blind, has challenged Councillor Geekie to explain how blind, disabled and elderly pedestrians can cross the high street safely without controlled crossings.

And he dismissed the council’s claim that the project is no longer a shared space but a “balanced street approach”.

Mr Taylor said: “How convenient. Shared space schemes are now facing hostility, so the council now claim it is not a shared space scheme but a balanced street approach.”

Here is his statement in full.

“Councillor Geekie claims that the guiding principle of the Town Centre Masterplan is to make the Town accessible to everyone.

“However she continually fails to explain how blind, disabled and elderly pedestrians are expected to use uncontrolled Courtesy crossings independently.

“All major organisations including RNIB, The National Federation of the Blind, Visibility and Guide Dogs UK were among 52 contributors who sent a submission to the Scottish Parliament in support of my Petition.

“It called for a moratorium on all Shared Space Schemes in Scotland until safety and equality issues had been addressed. All 52 submissions condemned Shared Space Schemes as they EXCLUDE many vulnerable people. It appears however that the Council Leader knows better than everyone, so let her tell us how we can use these crossings!

“Many local residents are still unaware that ALL controlled Crossings throughout Cowgate are being removed, including those at the Catherine Street/Kerr Street junction, the crossing at Greggs and the crossing at the Library.

“Only the crossing at the Canal, together with the new crossing further down Catherine Street and a 2nd new crossing in Kerr Street near the old Post Office will be press button controlled crossings. This means that many vulnerable pedestrians face a detour of over 800 metres in order to cross the street safely. Most reasonable people see this as preposterous.

“It is now almost two years since the disastrous four-week trial which to everyone except the Council was seen as a failure.

“Despite Council claims to the contrary, consultation has been a tick-box exercise, the safety and exclusion concerns voiced by EDVIP and others remain unheeded.

“With claims of success at other schemes such as Poynton now having been exposed as a litany of lies, Shared Space Schemes are facing hostility, so the Council now claims that it is not a Shared Space Scheme, but A BALANCED STREET APPROACH. How convenient. However it has all the hallmarks of the latter.

“How can it be a Balanced Street Approach! when it denies choice, excludes and terrifies the public who will avoid the Town Centre altogether.

“How can this scheme regenerate the Town when around 35 per cent of the public are excluded.

“The Council are also committed to a development at the Former Tom Johnston House site, which is being actively marketed as the site of a 61,000 square foot supermarket. So much for their commitment to the traders of the town.”