Cowgate closed for work on controversial scheme

The roadworks scheme has dominated local life in Kirkintilloch for many months.
The roadworks scheme has dominated local life in Kirkintilloch for many months.

Kirkintilloch’s Cowgate will be closed from its Catherine Street junction tomorrow (Monday, January 9) as a controversial roadworks scheme enters its final phase.

Work will take place around the area of Kirkintilloch Community Hub and William Patrick Library, with West High Street also closed to through traffic.

In late December council leader Rhondda Geekie said concerns about the unpopular “shared spaces” scheme are acknowledged, but that early indications show the Catherine Street junction is operating as planned.

But the lengthy programme of works is taking place against a mounting chorus of concern from residents and politicians.

The Cowgate Street Design Project, which is part of the overall Kirkintilloch Masterplan, includes new-look road and pavements between Townhead Bridge and Catherine Street, remodelled junctions at Catherine Street, Kerr Street and Cowgate, and new-look road and pavements in Cowgate.

The major revamp is set to be completed before summer, with features including wider pavements, narrower roads and cosmetic changes featuring artwork contributed by residents.

However the project has been dogged by controversy, with Strathkelvin and Bearsden MSP Rona McKay demanding scrutiny of key safety and also inclusion aspects, and demanding a wholesale reappraisal.

The effect of the disruption to local shops has also been highlighted.

In October Sandy Taylor, chairman of East Dunbartonshire Visually Impaired People’s Forum, accused the council of discriminating against blind and disabled people.

He wants a moratorium on all shared spaces in Scotland until safety and equality issues have been addressed.

In October the man responsible for the scheme, architect Ben Hamilton-Baillie - asked to “put himself in a blind person’s shoes - was almost hit by two cars as he tried to cross the road in an English town where a similar plan has been put into operation.

Ms McKay MSP, who has raised the issue with transport minister Humza Yousaf, 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.

She told the minister: “I know in this instance with this local authority that visually impaired groups and 
others were not consulted”.

Ms McKay questioned whether people’s rights had been contravened if they were neither consulted nor listened to.

However Councillor Geekie, who remains upbeat about the scheme, said: “As we enter 2017, we are very much entering the home straight as far as the Cowgate Street Design Project is concerned.

“I am delighted we were able to work with our contractor to ensure Cowgate was reopened during the busy Christmas period.

“I want to thank everyone for their patience and understanding while these works take place.”

She added:

“The aim of this project - and indeed Kirkintilloch Masterplan - is to make the town centre a more desirable place to live, visit and work in.”