A row has broken out over an “independent report” by a walking charity into the controversial shared space scheme for a town centre.
East Dunbartonshire Council asked Living Streets Scotland which it described as “a charity working to create safe, attractive and enjoyable streets” to independently appraise the project for Kirkintilloch, specifically focusing on the needs of all pedestrians.
The charity concluded: “It appears the design proposals for the Cowgate have been well thought out, with the needs of pedestrians as a priority.”
But leading disabled campaigner Sandy Taylor of East Dunbartonshire Visually Impaired Forum said: “Living Streets is NOT independent. The charity is a partner of Sustrans. It is therefore no surprise that this report is supporting council plans for the shared space project.”
At least 60 per cent of the funding for the £2m scheme, which takes in the busy Catherine Street junction is being funded jointly by environment group Sustrans and Strathclyde Passenger Transport.
Sandy added: “Living Streets did not consult with the public in the compilation of this report nor with disabled groups and groups for the elderly.
“More than 3500 local people signed our petition against this scheme but once again their wishes and fears are being ignored.”
A council spokesman said Living Streets hoped the council’s “pioneering approach” could be used as a “case study” by the Scottish Government in future.
He added: “As regards junctions at Catherine Street and West High Street, the appraisal from Living Streets Scotland suggests movement of vehicles still currently takes precedence over the town centre’s role as a shopping destination.
“The appraisal adds that ‘the proposal to revise these junctions would therefore appear justified.’”
The council plans to take away traffic lights and safety barriers at the junctions.
Safety concessions of two pelican crossings don’t go far enough, say campaigners.
Councillor Rhondda Geekie, Leader of East Dunbartonshire Council, said she welcomed the independent assessment from “a charity committed to standing up for all pedestrians.”
She added: “The report is a vote of confidence in the work which has taken place in the town centre so far and future proposals.”