22 October 2010

UK’s shared space progress races ahead

The UK has raced ‘miles ahead’ on shared space and is now the envy of the international community, according to a leading consultant.

Ben Hamilton-Baillie, director of Hamilton-Baillie Associates, said the much-publicised Ashford shared-space scheme had ‘completely silenced the critics’. The UK was now ‘leading the race’ – having made a slow start – and was even the envy of the pioneering Dutch and Danish, as well as the US, he told Surveyor.

He said Manual for streets 2 (MfS2) (Surveyor, 8 October 2010), the latest guidance on street design endorsed by the Department for Transport (DfT), was a ‘pretty encouraging policy statement’. MfS2 encourages the use of shared space on busy urban streets, where appropriate, but emphasises the importance of approaching such schemes with clear objectives.

The latest schemes in an advanced stage of development include Exhibition Road in west London, and Widemarsh Street in Hereford. The latter project is on a major route into the centre of Hereford, and marks an ‘important first step towards connecting the centre with its hinterland,’ Mr Hamilton- Baillie said.

Due to open in November, the route will encourage visitors to the city to move between the historic core and a new retail and leisure development planned by Hereford Futures.

However, shared space has met resistance in some parts of the country, most notably from Manchester City Council, which last year banned it on residential streets.

A spokesman for the charity, Guide Dogs, disputed Mr Hamilton-Baillie’s claims over the Ashford project, saying its members ‘aren’t going there on their own, if they go at all’.

Kensington and Chelsea RBC is trialling a means of delineation on Exhibition Road, proposed by the charity for blind and partially-sighted people. Guide Dogs negotiated to work with the council on Exhibition Road and subsequently, dropped its legal action against the project. ‘Shared space need not mean shared surface – our policy position remains the same,’ the spokesman said.

Her comments are backed up a by a new study which found improved street design could help blind and partially-sighted people to become more mobile and less isolated. Sight line: Designing better streets for people with low vision discovered that design played a big role in giving people with low vision the confidence to use streets and public spaces.

The CABE-funded study found that local authorities used blister paving differently to demarcate the pavement edge at both controlled and uncontrolled crossings. The study argued that national guidance must be clearer, and local authorities should co-ordinate across boroughs to provide more consistent information.
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