Transport Minister Humza Yousaf is to contact East Dunbartonshire Council about safety and equality issues in relation to the shared space in Kirkintilloch town centre.
At a meeting of Holyrood’s Petitions Committee on Thursday, the Scottish Government minister said all local authorities should ensure the design of a shared space is “inclusive.”
He added: “The needs of those with a disability must be considered, in particular people with a visual impairment.”
Mr Yousaf was invited to give evidence at the committee by Strathkelvin MSP Rona Mackay in relation to disabled campaigner Sandy Taylor’s petition for a moratorium on all shared spaces until safety and equality issues have been addressed.
Declaring an interest at the start of the meeting, Ms Mackay told Mr Yousaf she was backing the campaign against the shared space scheme in her constituency.
She said the opening of the “four-way non-controlled crossing” at Catherine Street junction at the end of November was “terrifying” her constituents, particularly the ones who were less able.
Ms Mackay told Mr Yousaf: “I know in this instance with this local authority that visually impaired groups and others were not consulted.”
She asked the minister if it was a contravention of people’s rights if they were not consulted and not listened to.
Mr Yousaf said: “If that was the case then it would be deeply worrying because all of the guidance – be it our own guidance, the guidance which was produced from a local authority’s perspective – talks about collaboration with local access panels and local disability groups.”
He added the Scottish Government’s “Designing Streets” policy was “predominantly aimed towards residential and lightly trafficked streets”.
Mr Yousaf told the committee he would “have a conversation with East Dunbartonshire Council and report back”.
Sandy Taylor, chair of East Dunbartonshire Visually Impaired People’s Forum (EDVIP), said he would be asking for sanctions in the form of withdrawal of other funding from the council, “until East Dunbartonshire Council restores the human rights of the hundreds of disabled, elderly and vulnerable citizens currently being denied safe access to their town centre”.
After Thursday’s meeting, Ms Mackay said: “While the Scottish Government cannot directly intervene, the Transport Minister has agreed to discuss the issue of safety and equality with East Dunbartonshire Council and hopefully they will see sense and reinstate the crossing lights.
“Sandy Taylor is quite right to ask for sanctions against East Dunbartonshire Council until this is resolved.”
In response to Thursday’s meeting, council Leader Rhondda Geekie said: “Kirkintilloch Masterplan was designed to meet demands for the town centre to be improved for shoppers, traders, residents and visitors.”
She insisted the council was “not creating a ‘shared space’,” adding this was thanks to local campaigners such as the EDVIP.
Ms Geekie said: “The pilot exercise which took place in August-September 2014 underwent two independent Road Safety Audits (RSA) which did not raise objections.
“The final design also underwent an independent RSA and the Roads Construction Consent process.”
She added that an “independent appraisal” by charity Living Streets Scotland stated that the “design proposals for the Cowgate have been well thought out, with the needs of pedestrians as a priority.”